Ticks & Tick-borne Diseases

  • Ticks carry many diseases, some fatal.
  • Ticks commonly transmit 3 or more diseases at once.
  • It can take years to diagnose them all.
  • There are no reliable tests for many tick-borne diseases.
  • There are no tests for some strains of some of these diseases.
  • About half of patients are unaware of having had a tick bite.
  • The tick can be too tiny to be noticed.
  • Diagnosis may need to be clinical, based on symptoms and history of tick exposure during the past month.
  • Symptoms resemble many other diseases.
  • If a patient is still ill after being treated for a tick-borne disease, consider co-infections.

Anatomy of a Tick

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  • A tick’s head has only a mouth, which it inserts into the bite, and palps which feel for a cozy place to bite.
    • Ticks have a mouth shaped somewhat like a long pinecone, with barbs that help hold it in place during feeding.
  • Deer ticks don’t have eyes. Many other ticks have eyes on the edge of their shield, just behind the front pair of legs.
  • Each leg has a claw on the tip to grasp onto a passing host.
  • Ticks are hard to smother:
    • Ticks breathe through two holes on their underside, behind their hind legs.
    • They don’t breathe very often, only a few times an hour.
    • They can survive underwater for 2 years.
    • Putting something on a tick won’t smother it.
      • It may irritate the tick and cause it to pull out
      • The tick may contract its body and squirt germs from its gut into the bite prior to pulling out.

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