Tick-borne diseases on the rise
By Dr. Manny Alvarez Published June 21, 2017 – Fox News
Ticks and tick-borne illnesses are found all over the U.S., and you can use these maps provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to see which ticks are found in your area. Different types of ticks carry different viral and bacterial illnesses, so it’s important to know which ticks are near you. There are seven varieties of ticks in the U.S. alone, and they carry at least 10 different viral and bacterial pathogens.
The tragic death of an Indianapolis toddler earlier this month, likely from a tick-borne disease called Rocky Mountain spotted fever, has focused public attention on the fact that tick-borne diseases are on the rise. In fact, there have been five tick-borne diseases identified for the first time in the U.S. since 2009. (No one’s really sure why new tick-borne diseases are showing up so quickly, but it could be connected to the overall increase in the identification of new diseases in the last several decades.)
One factor that’s increasing the rates of transmission of these diseases is the rising tick population. If have a yard or lawn, you may have noticed more ticks in recent years, and that’s a trend that’s being observed all over the country. Deer ticks, the carriers of Lyme disease, have been particularly plentiful.
One factor contributing to the increasing tick population is an increase in prey animal populations. Deer ticks feed primarily on deer and mice, populations that have been growing in recent years. One reason for this in the Northeastern US, where Lyme disease is most prevalent, is the lack of predators.
Larger predators that once hunted deer have been scarce for generations, and smaller predators that snack on mice like hawks, owls, and foxes have suffered from the loss of undisturbed forest habitats. Mice, on the other hand, are highly adaptable and live just as happily in abandoned structures and yards as they do in the forest. Any mouse that has been bitten by an infected tick then carries Lyme disease and spreads it to every new, uninfected tick that bites it.
Many researchers also believe that rising global temperatures are allowing ticks populations to move northward and expanding the tick feeding season. There have even been recommendations to change Lyme disease awareness month from May to April, since the deer tick feeding season seems to be moving into earlier months.
So, how do you stay safe?
Some tick-borne diseases are treatable, but prevention is the most effective response. Ticks won’t usually bite as soon as they come into contact with you, and if they can be removed before they’re embedded, they can’t make you sick. But even quick removal of an embedded tick can prevent some illnesses. For example, Lyme disease transmission can be prevented if a tick is removed within 24 hours.
Most of us only remember to check ourselves for ticks if we’ve been hiking or visiting a state park, but experts recommend including a tick check in your daily routine if you live in a high risk area. Many tick bites occur after everyday activities like gardening or mowing the lawn. Favorite spots for ticks to bite include the groin area, under the arms, and behind the ears. The shower is a great place to check for ticks, and using a washcloth is usually enough to dislodge any that aren’t attached yet.
If you do remove an embedded tick, you can save it and get a good identification just in case you develop any unusual symptoms. Knowing which type of tick bit you can help doctors rule out specific diseases if you do get sick. If you see a doctor for symptoms like rash, fever, or headaches and know you’ve been bitten by a tick recently, always make sure to let your doctor know.
Tick that causes meat allergy in humans heads north
By Georeen Tanner Published June 26, 2017 – Fox News
A surge in an aggressive type of tick that triggers a meat allergy in humans has health officials on alert. While the tick is most commonly found in the southeastern and south central areas of the U.S., data has tracked its movements as far north as Duluth, Minnesota, and Hanover, New Hampshire.
The lone star tick, which is named for the white dot found on adult females and can be as small as a poppy seed, triggers an allergy to alpha-gal in victims, leaving patients unable to consume meat. Wired reports at least 100 cases have been reported in the eastern tip of New York’s Long Island.
“We have three ticks here,” Rebecca Young, a nurse who assists at the Tick-Borne Disease Resource Center at Southampton Hospital in New York, told Fox News. “The dog tick, the deer tick, and now there’s a huge surge in the lone star tick in the last six to seven years.
While the lone star tick is not thought to transmit Lyme disease, a bite can result in itchy hives, stomach cramps, breathing problems and even death.
“You have to be aware you’ve been bitten,” Young said. “If you eat meat and you notice a rash and shallow breathing then you can deduce that you have this allergy.”
Part of Young’s role at the hospital is helping people understand how to properly remove a tick, and to identify what type of tick it is. The lone star tick is able to transmit the allergy at all stages of its lifespan, causing health officials to urge people who spend time outdoors to be vigilant.
“Mosquitos are better when it comes to letting you know that you’re being bitten,” Dr. Scott Campbell, of the Suffolk County Health Department, told My Long Island TV. “Ticks are a little more stealthier. What they do is they quest. They actually will sit on vegetation and put their front legs out and wait for something to come by and they latch on.”
To avoid tick bites while outdoors, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), advises using repellent that contains 20 percent or more of DEET, picaridin or IR3535, and to walk in the center of trails.