Medical Monday: Tick-borne illnesses

Tick(K-State Research and Extension / CC BY 2.0)
Published: May. 24, 2023 at 10:57 AM EDT
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PRESQUE ISLE, Maine (WAGM) - Thomas Macharia is a doctor of infectious disease and internal medicine at AR Gould and discusses the types of illnesses and conditions that can be transmitted through ticks.

“Tick-borne disease is a disease transmitted by or associated with ticks. Associated because there is what’s called southern tick associated rash illness in which no bacteria or agent has been found, but for most of them, there has been an agent that has been found,” said Dr. Macharia.

Each different type of tick can transmit its own type of disease. One of the most common illnesses associated with ticks in the northeast is Lyme Disease.

Macharia explained, ” Lyme Disease transmitted by black legged ticks in the Northeast or western black legged ticks in the Pacific regions. Lyme disease is caused by bacteria. The group of bacteria is called Borrelia”.

And it’s not just Lyme Disease that can be transmitted through ticks.

“Things like Powassan Virus which is transmitted by black legged and groundhog ticks. Aehrlichia, Antiplasmin, Babesia, various spotted fevers, and various other viral illnesses can be transmitted by ticks including Heartland, Bourbon Virus, Colorado Tick Fever,” said Macharia

Symptoms for these conditions are individualized, but he says there are some key signs that you may have a disease.

“Nothing specific: fever, fatigue, maybe some joint pains, headache, enlarged lymph glands for example around the neck. Rash is not found in everyone. The rash in Lyme is a rare, ring like patch initially and it’s not often itchy. There are several specific old, still very effective antibiotics that I use for some of these illnesses,” said Macharia.

Overall he says prevention is key to avoid any tick-borne illnesses and recommends wearing long and protective clothing if you are out near the woods. You can also use an EPA recommended insect repellent. It’s important to check for any ticks when you return inside as well and remove them in a proper manner according to the CDC.