Many species of ticks live throughout the United States, and each is capable of passing on a different disease or diseases to humans. It's important to be aware of the types of tick-borne diseases that are prevalent in your area so you know what symptoms to look out for after you are bitten. To that end, here's a look at three of the most worrisome tick-borne diseases in California.
Tularemia is a bacterial disease caused by the pathogen Francisella tularensis. It's carried by a species of tick called the Rocky Mountain wood tick, which is quite common on the West Coast. These ticks are reddish-brown in color with cream-colored patches just behind their heads. The ticks pick the bacteria up from rabbits and rodents and then pass it on to humans.
Most people notice symptoms of tularemia about three to five days after a tick bite. Symptoms include a skin ulcer around the tick bite, swollen lymph nodes, fever and exhaustion. Some patients also experience eye redness and discharge if the bacteria attack their eyes.
Tularemia can be deadly if left untreated, so it's important to see your doctor immediately if you experience these symptoms after being bitten by a tick. Your doctor will administer an injectable antibiotic, such as doxycycline, which will help your body clear the infection.
2. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
Rocky Mountain spotted fever, or RMSF, is another disease spread by the Rocky Mountain wood tick. It's caused by a bacterium called Rickettsia rickettsii. Symptoms including fever, headache, nausea and confusion usually appear about a week after the tick bite. Three to five days later, the patient develops a spotted rash that first appears on the wrists and ankles before spreading up the arms and legs.
RMSF can cause kidney failure, heart inflammation and a serious infection in the feet and hands. Up to 80 percent of patients die from RMSF if they do not receive treatment, so once again, it's essential to seek medical care if you become ill after a tick bite. Treatment usually involves antibiotics, and many patients need to be hospitalized.
There are several diseases similar to RMSF that are spread by different species of ticks, such as the Pacific Coast tick. These diseases cause similar symptoms but not the rash that goes along with RMSF. So always seek medical care for RMSF symptoms even if you do not develop the characteristic spotted rash.
3. Lyme Disease
Lyme disease may not be as common along the West Coast as it is along the East Coast, but it is a concern. In California, this disease is spread by the western black-legged tick, which is dark brown in color with a black head and legs. It does take a tick about 24 hours to pass on Lyme disease, so if you discover and remove the tick promptly, you should not have to worry.
Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. Symptoms first appear anywhere from a few days to a few weeks after the tick bite. First, you'll notice a bulls-eye-shaped red rash around the tick bite. Then, you'll develop symptoms like a fever, joint aches, muscle pain and fatigue. If Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics at this stage, it usually clears up quickly with no lingering effects.
When Lyme disease is not treated promptly, it becomes a lot harder to treat. Some patients experience recurring attacks of symptoms for many years after a tick bite.
While you cannot do much about ticks in the wilderness, you can take steps to control their population in your own yard. Keep your grass mowed short, and trim around fences and buildings often. Do not let brush pile up in your yard, and keep your shrubs neatly pruned.
If you do notice a lot of ticks in your yard, get in touch with a pest control company like A Step Above Pest Control & Termites. We'll help you make additional changes to ward off ticks and protect your family from these disease-laden creatures.