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 Tick Borne Illness and Prevention

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PostSubject: Tick Borne Illness and Prevention   Sun Jul 01, 2007 8:19 am

There are several illnesses associated with ticks. It is important to realize that not all tick bites will result in illness but that when a tick is itself infected with the associated bacteria it can then transmit this illness on to other species including your pets, your children, and you.

By far the most serious of illnesses associated with ticks is that of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. The name is misleading as this illness has been found to have a range from Alaska and Southern Canada to as far south as South America. This illness was first reported in 1896 in Idaho and was called Black Measles for its measle like appearance. Diagnosis of this illness can be difficult and easily overlooked. Treatment of this disease is critical as 3% - 5% of those effected still die as a result of the infection despite effective treatments and advances in medical care.

Certainly the most prevalent illness associated with ticks is Lyme disease. Lyme disease effects approximately 16,000 individuals in the US each year and has been reported in every state. Although there have been a few Lyme disease related deaths the probability of death from Lyme disease is next to 0 especially with the appropriate medical treatment. Estimated costs associated with education and treatment of this disease exceed $60 million annually.

Southern Tick Associated Rash Illness is another tick borne illness. This illness is primarily confined from Texas eastward with the majority of cases in the southern states and eastern seaboard. Although this illness is not as common as Lyme disease it shares many of the symptoms and without clinical tests to rule out Lyme disease can be easily misdiagnosed.

Ehrlichiosis caused by the Ehrlichia bacterium. Although only a few cases in America have been reported similar illnesses related to this bacteria have been reported in the Southeast Asia and Far East predominantly in western Japan. Little is known about the illness and transmission associated with the Erlichia bacterium but investigations are currently underway to help promote better understanding.

Babesia Infection although extremely rare has been classified as an emerging infectious disease or EID. Because of the rarity of this disease very little is known about it. Individuals who have been diagnosed with this illness are of great interest to the medical community for study. The medical community is interested in these individuals in order to gain greater understanding of the illness. With this understanding they try to develop appropriate treatment methods and ways of treating it in its early stages as well as developing ways to eliminate the illness before it becomes more prevalent in the world wide community.

Symptoms of these illnesses are often very similar which include rash, headaches, fever, aches, and swelling especially in the major joints.

The best prevention against getting an illness associated with ticks is to avoid areas such as the woods and overgrown brush. Knowing this is not really feasible for many of us, the next best thing is to dress in such a way as to limit skin exposure, wear insect repellant, and thoroughly search yourself and pets when coming from such environments.

Pets should also be treated to help prevent them from being the target of ticks with liquid treatments like those available through Frontline and Advantix. Some animals may be sensitive to such treatments so after their application one should supervise their pets health for a few days afterwards. In addition to repelling ticks such treatments have been made to also repel fleas and mosquitoes, which also has positive health benefits for your pets.

If a tick is found to be lodged in you or your pet it is important to remove it appropriately. The appropriate method of removing a tick is with the use of tweezers or rubber gloves. It is important to grab the tick as close to the base of the skin as possible and pull directly outward slowly. Ticks should not be jerked or twisted out as this may severe their mouth parts which may remain lodged in the skin. If this happens these should also be removed to prevent continuing or increased risk of infection. It is also important not to handle the tick with bare hands or squish the tick. If the tick is a carrier of a bacteria, handling the tick inappropriately can result in passing the infection on even without bite especially when in contact with the mucus membranes or even small unseen cuts in the skin may be. After removal it is important to wash any skin that has came in contact with the tick with soap (preferably antibacterial soap) and hot water. Subsequent treatment with Hydrogen Peroxide is also recommended.

If there is cause for concern it is advisable to place the tick in a sealable plastic bag and to make note of the date of exposure and any subsequent symptoms there may be of illness. Having the tick specimen will help a lab run tests to determine if the tick is an actual carrier of any bacteria that could cause illness. If cases of illness have been reported in your area this is an especially important step to help determine treatment and community prevalence.

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