Ticks and Diseases

ticks

Ticks and Diseases

Ticks are among the most efficient carriers of disease because they attach themselves to their host firmly when sucking blood.  Ticks feed slowly and take several days to complete a feeding cycle.  Ticks may go unnoticed for a considerable amount of time.

Ticks have four stages in their life cycle.
Stage 1: the egg –   Ticks begin their life cycle as an egg. When the egg hatches, a six-legged larva (sometimes called a “seed tick”) will emerge.
Stage 2: the six-legged larva – The larva look like an adult tick except for the two missing legs. For the larva to grow, it must find a host.  Its first meal (host) is typically a small mammal, bird or lizard.  After feeding, the larva falls to ground to digest its meal and to grow.  Depending upon the species of tick, in about 1 to 6 weeks, the larva molts and becomes an eight-legged nymph.
Stage 3: the eight-legged nymph – The nymph looks just like an adult tick except it is smaller. The nymph is looking for another meal.  Again, it is typically a small mammal, bird or lizard.  Once the nymph has completed its meal, it drops to the
ground, digests its food, grows, and then molts again.  Depending upon the species, many molting cycles may result.  After the final molting, the nymph becomes an adult tick.
Stage 4: the adult-The primary function of the adult tick is to mate.  Reproduction processes are slightly different for different species of tick.  Basically, for the “hard tick” species, the male and femal feed (gorging themselves) prior to mating.
Often the male dies after mating and the female dies after laying her 2,000 – 18,000 eggs.  For the “soft tick” species, the male and female may eat and mate several times; resulting in several generations of eggs in one season.

Recognizing the Symptoms

People of all ages can be infected. At this time, there is no vaccine currently available to prevent Lyme disease or most other tick-borne diseases, so early detection and treatment are important. Most tick-borne diseases can be treated successfully. Early detection and treatment can prevent more serious illness.
Early symptoms of tick-borne diseases may include:
Fever
Headache
 Fatigue
 Rash

If you come down with flu-like symptoms or the four symptoms listed above several weeks following tick attachment, see a physician immediately for medical attention.

Reduce risk of being bitten by a tick by

Avoiding areas which are woody, brushy and/or have tall grassy areas. When walking in the woods, stay on the path.  Avoid going into the underbrush.  If possible, tuck your pant legs into your boots, your shoes, or your socks.

Skin Prevention

When outside, apply an insect repellent which has a deet concentration of 20% or more. Spray your clothing as well as your exposed skin.  Cover yourself up (exposed skin areas) by wearing long pants, long sleeve shirts and tall socks.

Checking for Ticks

Always check yourself for ticks before entering your house. You don’t want to carry them in with you. Check the kids as well as yourself. In areas that may be hard to see use a mirror. Make sure that your animals have collars with tick medicine on them.

Removal of Ticks

If you find a tick attached to your skin, do not panic. Not all ticks are infected with a disease.
Studies suggest that it may take several hours or even days for infected ticks to transmit the rickettsia that cause infection.   Your chances of contracting a tickborne disease are greatly reduced if you remove a tick quickly after attachment.  So it becomes very important to check yourself and family members for ticks immediately after you have been in an area that may harbor ticks.

To find answers to questions concerning ticks, their associated diseases, and their prevention and control, try these websites:
 http://health.mo.gov/living/healthcondiseases/communicable/tickscarrydisease/
For tips on ticks while hunting check out the site below:
http://www.cdc.gov/ticks/resources/Hunterfactsheet.pdf