Tick Diseases:

10 Fatal Diseases Caused by Ticks

Small in size, big on impact is probably how most affected people would describe ticks. The small, wingless insects are infamous for their insatiable appetite for blood – animal as well as human. Here are 10 fatal illnesses caused by ticks.

a tick on a human's palm

Apart from the irritation factor and the trouble they cause, tick bites pose a number of health risks to us. So rashes and discomfort apart, ticks are disease-carriers and transmit diseases to humans. The problem is further amplified because as many as 900 tick species exist and thrive across the world.

In 2017, the CDC reported that near 60,000 cases of tick-borne illnesses in the US regions. However, the agency estimates the actual numbers are much higher, given the fact that most cases aren’t reported to the CDC.

Let’s examine the major tick species native to the country and the diseases they transmit. The wood tick or American dog tick and the black-legged tick or deer tick are among the most common species in the US. These ticks are responsible for transmitting some diseases among humans, the most prominent among them being Lyme disease.

However, in recent times, other diseases with symptoms that are deceptively similar to those of Lyme disease have been discovered. This makes it imperative to know the major diseases caused by ticks:

#1. Lyme Disease

Tops the list of illnesses propagated by ticks, Lyme disease is attributed to the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. Lyme disease poses potentially serious threat to animals and humans too.

There has been a constant growth in the number of Lyme disease afflictions recorded in recent years. The disease symptoms are sometimes confused with those of Borrelia mayonni.

#2. Anaplasmosis

Discovered at the beginning of the 1990s, Anaplasmosis is a bacterial disease that is transmitted by the black-legged tick. Incidentally, the back-legged tick or deer tick also transmits Lyme disease.

Originally known as human granulocytic ehrlichiosis (HGE), Anaplasmosis is not as prevalent as Lyme disease though.

#3. Ehrlichiosis

Is a bacterial disease that spread by Lone Star ticks which are found in the mid-Atlantic US. Attributed to Ehrlichia chaffeensis, the disease was originally reported in the year 1986. Symptoms typically include fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, nausea, and rash. According to CDC, up to 1 to 3 people with the disease report a rash (especially occurs in children). The rashes usually develop 5 days after becoming ill.

A recent report from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill showed that this tick-borne illness isn’t getting much attention compared to other endemic tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Researchers said many medical providers in North Carolina failed to test for Ehrlichia for their patients. As a result, it’s estimated that more than 10 percent of the patients who underwent tick-borne illnesses testing have missed the diagnosis.

#4. Powassan Virus

A relatively less common disease, Powassan Virus is basically a flavivirus transmitted by ticks. Prevalence of the disease is mostly detected in states in the upper midwest and northeast of the US. Researchers have found that up t0 5% of ticks (Ixodes scapularis) in several areas in New York, Connecticut, and Wisconsin are positive for Powassan virus.

Powassan virus disease was originally reported in Powassan, Ontario, in 1958, when the virus was found in the brain of a child who died of encephalitis. Since then, a growing number of human cases of the virus has been found in the US, Canada, and Russia. Besides encephalitis, Powassan virus can cause fatal diseases such as meningoencephalitis and meningitis.

#5. Berrelia miyamotoi

Is a bacterial disease diagnosed as late as 2011. Symptoms are quite similar to those of relapsing fever attributed to ticks. The bacteria is a distant relation to the Borrelia burgdorferi, which causes Lyme disease. Relatively few cases of the illness have been reported in the recent past.

american dog tick on the white floor

American Dog Tick (Photo: Mohammed El Damir, Bugwood.org)

#6. Borrelia mayonii

With symptoms similar to Lyme disease it was discovered only in 2013. The disease is basically noticed in people with exposure to the black-legged tick.

#7. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Is a rare type of disease that is attributed to the bite of the American dog tick.

#8. Tularemia

Is a serious disease caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis that is transmitted by lone star tick, the wood tick, and the dog tick. The disease occurs all over the US and is not restricted to any specific regions or states.


Related Article:

The Rise of Tick and Mosquito-Borne Diseases


#9. Babesiosis

Transmitted by the deer or black-legged tick, Babesiosis is a disease that infects the red blood cells in our body. The disease is caused by microscopic parasites that are transmitted by the ticks through their bite.

The disease is prevalent in the upper Midwest and north-eastern parts of the USA. One-fifth of patients suffering from this disease is also found to be affected by Lymes disease as well.

#10. Colorado Tick Fever

Is a relatively high-altitude disease that occurs at elevations between 4000 feet and 10000 feet. This fever is caused by the bite of Rocky Mountain wood tick which transmits the virus to human beings.

As you can see, there are different types of ticks but the diseases they transmit symptoms. Therefore it becomes essential to properly identify the precise disease afflicting a patient and organize treatment accordingly. It is also clear that avoiding tick bites is the first precaution we need to take. If you have a tick infestation, don’t hesitate to call a professional pest control.***

Last Update on December 27, 2018.


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