- North Carolina is home to five species of ticks
- There were more than a dozen cases of Lyme disease in North Carolina in 2016
- A Lyme disease test returns a false negative in over 50 percent of positive cases
No matter where you live in the United States, ticks are out and about. Some states are experiencing record numbers of these tiny invaders. What used to be enjoyable walks in nature years ago are now wrought with worry about tick bites and Lyme disease. Ticks are so prevalent this year that some people avoid participating in outdoor activities altogether.
Lyme disease is certainly not something anyone wants to deal with. Despite this, not many people know any more than “I don’t want it.” Unless you look for information, discovering the truth about ticks and the diseases they carry can be difficult. Here is what you need to know to protect both you and your pets this summer season.
What Kind of Ticks You Are Likely to See
There are different species of ticks across the United States and only five currently known to reside in the Carolinas. These include:
- American Dog Tick: Can transmit Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
- Brown Dog Tick: Can transmit Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
- Lone Star Tick: Can causes STARI and ehrlichiosis
- Blacklegged Tick: Can transmit Lyme disease, babesiosis, anaplasmosis, and Powassan disease
- Gulf Coast Tick (Not as prevalent as others): Can transmit a form of spotted fever
Where You Will Run Into Ticks
If there is any good news about ticks, it’s that they don’t fly. Ticks live in grassy areas and wait for their prey to wander by. When a human or animal walks by, it jumps aboard and hitches a ride hoping to get a free meal.
Lyme Disease Transmission
The tick you are likely most worried about is the blacklegged tick. This little insect carries and spreads Lyme disease throughout the United States. In most cases of Lyme disease, the culprit will attach itself during its nymph stage because at this stage they are more difficult to locate and remove. Nymphs are the second stage of a tick’s lifecycle, and they are extremely small during this stage.
In order for Lyme disease to be transmitted, a tick needs to bite its host. The tick must remain attached from between 36 and 48 hours for the disease to be passed along. It’s important to note that not all ticks carry Lyme disease. In order for a person to be infected, the tick that has been attached must be a carrier.
You cannot get Lyme disease from a dog or cat. You won’t get it from another person through any type of typical contact. You cannot transmit Lyme disease to an infant through breast milk.
Symptoms of Lyme Disease
The first step in recognizing that you may have Lyme disease is knowing that you’ve been bitten by a tick. You may have a tick attached and never know. Once it has finished its meal, it will drop off your body, never to be seen again.
A tick bite typically appears as a red spot on the skin. You may experience itching or burning and may have some localized pain. If you are allergic to tick saliva, you may develop a rash, swelling, shortness of breath or stiffness. In some cases, a person develops no telltale signs and has no idea they’ve been bitten. Once you know you’ve been bitten, be on the lookout for the symptoms of Lyme disease.
You may develop a bull’s-eye rash at the site of the bite. It will be round or oval with a dark center and a halo around the bite.
The earliest symptoms of Lyme disease mimic the common flu. You may feel tired despite not having been overly active. You may discover that you need to sleep more in order to feel rested. In more severe cases of Lyme disease, your fatigue may interfere with your daily life.
- Joint Problems
Early symptoms of Lyme disease also include stiff, swollen joints. It may hurt to bend your elbows. You could experience more pain than usual in your knees when you take a walk. Studies indicate that approximately 80% of people with untreated Lyme disease have joint symptoms.
About half of all those infected with Lyme disease experience symptoms typically associated with the flu in the first week of their infection. Headaches, dizziness and fever are not uncommon.
- Night Sweats
Different sleep disturbances are typical with Lyme disease. You may experience night sweats or chills when you are trying to sleep.
- Cognitive Impairment
Changes in your ability to concentrate can be a symptom of Lyme disease. You may become confused easily or forget what you were doing. This can be one of the more frightening symptoms of the disease.
Lyme Disease Is Often Misdiagnosed
It’s not unusual for people who have Lyme disease to be diagnosed with another condition. This is because the symptoms of the disease so closely mimic those found in other chronic conditions. Some of the most common misdiagnoses include:
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Lou Gehrig’s Disease
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