Ticks spreading more and more serious diseases
Excerpted from Standard-Examiner ( Posted: 09/14/2012)
Even medical professionals may be overlooking the obvious, he said. The study mentions a survey of 36 East Tennessee health-care providers that found 62 percent said their knowledge of ehrlichiosis was “weak” or nonexistent; two-thirds said they wouldn’t ordinarily think of testing for tick-borne illness, and a third said they wouldn’t think of identifying the type of tick to help make a diagnosis. Yet both it and rickettsiosis can be treated more easily if caught early.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — If a tick bites you, save it in a vial of alcohol or in your freezer. It might be carrying an organism that can make you sick later — and, depending on where you are, not necessarily with the disease you’re thinking of.
That’s the conclusion of a pair of scientists who studied 25,000 ticks that had been on people, and thousands more in the wild.
Graham Hickling, director of the University of Tennessee’s Center for Wildlife Health, and Ellen Stromdahl, a Maryland-based entomologist with the Army Institute of Public Health, co-wrote the study, “Beyond Lyme: Aetiology of Tick-borne Human Diseases with Emphasis on the South-Eastern United States,” published Sept. 7 in a special issue of the journal “Zoonoses and Public Health.”
Hickling said the study is the first to make a state-by-state comparison of which ticks bite people. In the North, he said, it’s usually the blacklegged tick, or “deer tick,” which carries the bacteria thought to cause Lyme disease.
But in the South, Hickling said, the blacklegged tick in its nymphal stage — the life stage it’s in during summer, when more people are bitten — tends to seek out cold-blooded hosts, such as lizards, rather than warm-blooded, such as mice, or humans.
The Lone Star tick is another story. Though it’s not thought to spread Lyme, it can infect humans with at least six other serious illnesses, including tularaemia, spotted fever rickettsiosis (formerly called Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever) and ehrlichiosis, which has been on the rise in the South for several years.
This year, for example, Tennessee has reported almost 200 percent more rickettsiosis cases than in 2011, and more than 25 percent more cases of ehrlichiosis.