Dangerous Ticks Are Spreading Across the US – Here’s How to Keep Yourself Safe

According to a recent article, various tick species carrying dangerous pathogens are spreading across the United States, making it more important to know how to keep yourself safe.

Tick-Borne Diseases

Ticks can carry a number of bacteria, viruses, and parasites that are dangerous to humans. The most common tick-borne diseases found in the United States are Lyme disease, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, anaplasmosis, tularemia, and more.

The tick-borne disease that is the most commonly reported is Lyme disease. Lyme disease is a vector-borne disease that is typically caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi and spread by ticks. About 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported to the CDC annually, but not all cases are reported. The actual number of cases is most likely higher.

The symptoms of Lyme disease come in stages, so they differ depending on how long one has had the disease. Early symptoms include fever, chills, headaches, fatigue, aches in the muscles and joints, swollen lymph nodes, and erythema migrans rash. This rash forms at the site of the tick bite. These symptoms will occur three to 30 days after infection. Later effects begin to appear days or months after the bite. They include severe headaches, neck stiffness, additional rashes, facial palsy, arthritis, severe joint pain and swelling, intermittent pain in the tendons, muscles, joints, and bones, an irregular heartbeat, dizziness, shortness of breath, inflammation in the brain and spinal cord, nerve pain, shooting pains, numbness, and tingling.

The Spread Across the US

The range of tick species is increasing all over the United States. In places where certain ticks may not have ever lived, they are now being found. There are various reasons for ticks spreading to different places. For example, an increase in white-tailed deer and a few other animals in the eastern United States due to more forest cover has led ticks to migrate to the area as they feed on those animals.

Unfortunately, an increase in ticks means an increase in tick-borne diseases. This is why professionals are warning people to use more caution when enjoying time outdoors this summer.

The Two Kinds of Ticks Taking Over

The most troubling news scientists have revealed is that two types of dangerous ticks are now spreading across the country: the black-legged tick and the lone star tick. The black-legged tick, more commonly known as the deer tick, carries the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, the most common tick-borne disease reported in the US. Now, these ticks are being found as far as Nebraska. With Lyme disease affecting almost half a million people in the United States every year – and that number is consistently rising – this spread has experts worried.

The lone star tick is typically found across the eastern United States, but now it is heading north and possibly even west. This type of tick being found in areas it is not supposed to be is troubling since these ticks can cause alpha-gal syndrome. This syndrome causes people to have a potentially fatal allergic reaction when consuming red meat.

It is important to note that the increases in forest fragmentation have led to an increase in deer, which has therein led to an increase in ticks. Where there are deer, there are typically ticks since deer are the optimal prey for many types of ticks.

Keeping Yourself Safe This Summer

Currently, there are not many ways to manage ticks. The methods that have been discovered often come with other drawbacks, making them undesirable. Furthermore, there is not a lot of funding that goes towards tick control, especially when compared to the funding that goes towards mosquito-borne diseases. Therefore, it is important to know the ways to keep yourself safe while enjoying the outdoors.

Here are a few ways to keep yourself safe from ticks:

  • Use an EPA-registered insect repellent
  • Wear long pants when possible (and tuck them into your socks for extra protection)
  • Treat your clothes with the insecticide permethrin
  • After returning from the outdoors, immediately throw your clothes in the dryer on high heat for about 10 minutes to kill any ticks that may have gotten on your clothes
  • Have a friend or loved one check you for ticks
  • Take a shower after returning inside
  • If you have pets, make sure to check them thoroughly as well!

As long as you take the proper precautions to prevent tick bites, you can still enjoy all of your favorite outdoor activities!

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