Information for Tick Season

Tick Season has arrived! Here is the information you need to be aware of when you're outside and in the parks.

What am I looking for?

There are three species in Massachusetts: the black - legged ticks (deer ticks), dog ticks, and lone star ticks.
Ticks are very small and like grassy, wooded, shady areas - which can include your backyard. They attach through contact, they do not fly or jump.
Image result for blacklegged tick Black - legged Tick
Image result for dog tick Dog Tick
Image result for lone star tick Lone Star Tick

How are they harmful?
They feed off of blood which gives them the opportunity to spread diseases. Ticks are picked up through direct contact outside -- whether it be through long grass in the backyard, hiking, etc. They are very tiny and not very noticeabe. Ticks spread parasitic germs when they feed, allowing these germs to attack different systems in your body, including your blood cells and your nervous system.

Protection:
1. Check yourself (Children & pets) once a day.
Inside/behind ears, Along hairline, Back of neck, Groin, Legs, Back of knees, Between toes, Armpits
2. Don't panic, use tweezers to get as close to the skin as possible and pull the tick straight out with consistent pressure.
3. Do not apply kerosene, matches, nail polish, or petroleum jelly to remove the tick.
4. Take notes.
- Date found
- Location of tick on your body
- Any symptoms following the tick
5. Contact a doctor if you are bitten.
6. If you go outside, stay clear of areas likely to have ticks. Wear light clothes (ticks like shade). Stay on clear paths.
7. Use tick repellant.
8. Talk to your veterinarian about ways to keep your pets safe.

Diseases in Depth:
Black - legged Tick (Spring, Summer, and Fall. Otherwise, above freezing.)
- Lyme Disease -
Early stage (days to weeks): The most common early symptom is a rash (erythema migrans) where the tick was attached.  It often, but not always, starts as a small red area that spreads outward, clearing up in the center so it looks like a donut.  Flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headache, stiff neck, sore and aching muscles and joints, fatigue and swollen glands may also occur. Even though these symptoms may go away by themselves, without medical treatment, some people will get the rash again in other places on their bodies, and many will experience more serious problems.  Later stages (weeks to years): If untreated, people with Lyme disease can develop late-stage symptoms even if they never had a rash.  The joints, nervous system and heart are most commonly affected.

- Babesiosis -
Babesiosis is a disease caused by a microscopic parasite (a type of germ similar to those that cause malaria) that infects red blood cells. Most people who are infected by the parasite will show very mild signs of illness or no signs at all.  If symptoms occur, they may include fever, chills, headache, achy joints and muscles, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and dark urine.  Symptoms can last for up to several months.  The elderly, people without a healthy spleen, and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to develop potentially life-threatening symptoms.

- Anaplasmosis -
HGA is caused by bacteria (germs) that attack certain types of white blood cells called granulocytes.  HGA was previously known as human granulocytic ehrlichiosis. Symptoms of HGA generally include fever, headache (that often doesn’t get better with over-the-counter medicine), chills, muscle ache, and fatigue. Less commonly, people may have abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cough and joint aches.

- Borrelia Miyamotoi -
A bacterium (germ) that can be spread by tiny, infected black-legged  (deer) ticks. These bacteria have only recently been discovered as a cause of some human illness. Symptoms similar to those of Lyme disease, such as the erythema migrans rash (bull’s-eye rash), arthritis or facial palsy were uncommon.

- Powassan Virus-
Causes a rare, but often serious disease, and is spread by the bite of tiny, infected black-legged (deer) ticks. There are two types of Powassan virus in the United States. One type is found in ticks that normally feed on woodchucks (groundhogs); the second type is carried by black-legged ticks, the same ticks that can also carry the germs that cause Lyme disease, babesiosis and anaplasmosis. Although most people who are exposed to Powassan virus likely never feel ill, others may become severely ill with meningitis (inflammation of the covering of the brain and spinal cord) or encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). Signs and symptoms include fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, loss of coordination, speech difficulties and seizures. Approximately 10% of people with this severe form of the disease will die and survivors may have long-term health problems. 

Dog Tick (Spring, Summer)
- Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever -
A disease caused by the bacteria (germ) Rickettsia rickettsii. Symptoms usually begin with a sudden onset of fever and severe headache, and may also include deep muscle pain, nausea and vomiting, and less frequently stomach pain and cough. Most people develop a rash on their arms and legs about 3 to 5 days after the fever starts. This rash often spreads to the palms, soles, and over the rest of the body.

- Tularemia -
A disease caused by the bacteria (germ) Francisella tularensis. It is a disease that occurs in both animals and humans. Symptoms will be different depending on how the germs get into your body. If the germs are spread by an infected tick bite or by touching an infected animal, symptoms may include a skin sore (ulcer) and/or swollen glands (lymph nodes). Eating food or drinking water that has been contaminated with the germs may cause throat or intestinal pain, diarrhea and vomiting.  Breathing in the germs will cause fever and a pneumonia-like illness with coughing, chest pain and/or shortness of breath.

Lone Star Tick *Rare in Mass at this time*
-
Tularemia
-
As shown above

- Anaplasmosis -
As shown above

- Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness (STARI)
The rash of STARI is a red, expanding “bull’s-eye” lesion that develops around the site of a lone star tick bite. The rash usually appears within 7 days of tick bite and expands to a diameter of 8 centimeters (3 inches) or more. The rash should not be confused with much smaller areas of redness and discomfort that can occur commonly at the site of any tick bite. Patients may also experience fatigue, headache, fever, and muscle pains. The saliva from lone star ticks can be irritating; redness and discomfort at a bite site does not necessarily indicate an infection.


Sources:

Mosquitoes and Ticks in MA

Tick-borne Diseases