Ticksby RNE submissions on 06/13/18
By Joanna Mechlinski
The very idea of summer goes hand in hand with fun for most people. But unfortunately, as with any other time of year, the season poses some potentially serious health hazards – including ticks.
Most people understand that ticks cause Lyme disease. But the fact is, ticks are actually responsible for numerous other diseases, depending on the type of tick. Many of them are quite rare. One of them is Powassan virus, which causes encephalitis and meningitis. About 10% of those with the virus die; about 50% of survivors are left with permanent neurological damage. Other tick-borne diseases include Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which often presents with a rash and can lead to amputation of arms, legs, fingers or toes in serious cases due to blood vessel damage; Anaplasmosis, transmitted by the black-legged tick and leading to vague symptoms such as fever, chills, malaise and muscle aches, which may be easily confused with a variety of other diseases.
It’s even possible to succumb to a type of paralysis caused by a toxin in tick saliva. According to the CDC, tick paralysis generally strikes children or the elderly, starting in the lower body and moving upwards. While symptoms usually subside within 24 hours of tick removal, due to the way many symptoms can mimic other diseases, it can be difficult for medical professionals to realize that a tick is responsible in the first place.
What’s more, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has found that climate change caused the number of causes to double between 2004 and 2016, especially in the Northeast and northern Midwest. (In fact, when also classified with diseases spread by mosquito and flea, the entire group of cases topped 640,000 – triple the number prior to 2004). But given that people travel, those who live outside the target areas should be just as vigilant.
So what can a person do? As with many other things in life, prevention is always best. It’s recommended that people spending time outdoors cover up, wear light colors, use repellant, conduct a thorough search of their bodies for ticks and once returning home.