You’re likely well aware of Lyme disease— it’s the most common tick-borne illness in the United States, and it’s something to take very seriously. But Lyme disease isn’t the only tick-borne disease we need to watch out for. In fact, in the CDC’s May 2018 report on vector-borne diseases, they listed the other tick-transmitted diseases that were on the rise. Those are Erlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF), and Babesiosis. In Illinois, between 2004 and 2016, there were 3,685 tick-borne disease cases, according to CDC data. Illinois was in the second 20 percent of states for tick-borne diseases.
So what exactly are these other illnesses, and what kind of symptoms do we watch out for? Which ticks are responsible for them? Here’s a cheat sheet.
Erlichiosis is almost as complex as it is to spell. It’s not actually one disease, but an umbrella term for several different bacterial diseases. In humans, at least three different species of this bacteria occur — Ehrlichia chaffeensis, Ehrlichia ewingii, and a third Ehrlichia species called Ehrlichia muris-like (EML). The main vector of Erlichiosis tends to be the Lone Star tick, although the dog tick (or wood tick) and the deer tick (or the black-legged tick) have also been associated with it.
Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, chills, red eyes, confusion, and nausea/vomiting/diarrhea. It is important to note that it does come with a rash, but not everyone who has Erlichiosis will develop one. Up to 60% of children show signs of a rash, while fewer than 30% of adults do. The rash can resemble a sunburn or even be splotchy like the Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever rash, which may make it harder to distinguish.
Erlichiosis can be very serious is not treated correctly. Unfortunately, it is difficult to diagnose because symptoms vary from patient to patient, but it can be confirmed with specialized lab tests. Once Erlichiosis is confirmed, treatment should start immediately. Doxycycline is the first line treatment for adults and children of all ages. It is most effective at preventing severe complications from developing if it is started early in the course of disease.
Learn more about Erlichiosis at the CDC’s website.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) is a very serious bacterial disease that can be fatal if not treated early. It is spread by the dog tick. Early signs and symptoms are not specific to RMSF, including fever, muscle pain, and a headache, but it can progress rapidly and be life-threatening. Most people who get RMSF develop the tell-tale rash, which usually develops 2–4 days after fever begins. The appearance of the rash can range from splotchy spots to pinpoint dots, and often starts on the hands and feet.
Because the signs and symptoms of RMSF are similar to other tick-borne illnesses, it can be difficult to diagnose. A blood test is usually conducted, but results can take weeks. So if your physician suspects RMSF, it should be treated with antibiotics immediately. Like with Erlichiosis, doxycycline is the most effective treatment for this disease.
For more information about RMSF, visit the CDC’s website.
Babesiosis is an infection of red blood cells, and like Lyme disease, is transmitted by black-legged ticks (also known as deer ticks). It is quite common here in the Midwest. This is a tricky disease, because many people with Babesiosis feel fine and don’t have any symptoms at all. Some people develop flu-like symptoms like fever, chills, headaches, body aches, nausea, and fatigue. Because the Babesia parasites infect red blood cells, this disease can cause anemia. People who do not have signs or symptoms usually don’t need to be treated, but there is effective treatment for those who do. Diagnosis of Babesiosis is confirmed with a blood test. Generally, Babesiosis is not considered fatal, however it can be for people with compromised immune systems, those without spleens, a serious health condition like kidney disease, or are elderly.
More information about Babesiosis can be found at the CDC’s website.
While all of these tick-borne illness are treatable, it’s safe to say nobody would like to contract one of these diseases in the first place. Which is why the best way to prevent tick-borne diseases is avoiding ticks all together. Here at Mosquito Squad of Central Illinois, our tick control methods can reduce the tick and mosquito population in your yard by up to 90%, for three straight weeks.
Take control of your yard’s tick population and ensure peace of mind knowing you’re protected from tick-borne illnesses like these and Lyme disease. Call Mosquito Squad of Central Illinois today at (217) 919-9292 today, or drop us a line via the contact form on our home page. We look forward to hearing from you, and remember — your family and pets are too precious not to protect.