The Growing Danger of Ticks

According to the CDC, tick-borne diseases have become increasingly common. They have doubled in prevalence since 2003 and tripled since 1995. That makes them the “most significant vectors of infectious diseases in the United States,” according to a report from the Mid-Atlantic Tick Summit III. The CDC reports that ticks spread over 14 diseases.

The best-known of these is probably Lyme disease, which infects 300,000 people per year. It’s caused by bacteria, and untreated Lyme disease can damage the joints, brain, heart and muscles. The disease can be tricky to diagnose, especially in the 25 percent of patients who don’t develop the famous bulls-eye rash.

Deer tick fever or powassan virus is both untreatable and often fatal. Rocky Mountain spotted fever, despite the name, is most likely to occur in the south. It can also kill, and the patient has only a few days to get life-saving treatment after the symptoms start.

Even people who live in cities can be infected with a disease carried by ticks. Boraie Development LLC also says blacklegged ticks have been found in almost every borough in New York City, and about half of them have been found to carry Lyme disease.

Preventing tick-borne diseases is easier said than done. While people are generally careful about ticks when in the woods, ticks are not limited to forests and can be found elsewhere, even in cities. Bug sprays are not always effective, and some don’t work at all.

Some experts recommend treating clothes and shoes with permethrin, a pesticide that can repel and kill ticks for up to 70 washes. It is especially important to treat shoes, since nymph or juvenile ticks often get to people’s skin by crawling up shoes. Nymphs are small and hard to see, and they cause most of the tick bites.