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Ten Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Tick-Borne Illnesses

Tick and other insect-borne illnesses have more than tripled, according to a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) 13-year study. Three ticks are found in North Carolina: the American Dog Tick, the Lone Star Tick, and the Blacklegged Tick. The Blacklegged tick, also known as the deer tick, is what spreads Lyme disease. Lyme disease accounts for 82 percent of all tick-borne diseases in the United States.

One of the causes for the surge in insect-borne illnesses, and specifically, those that originate from ticks, is believed to be the increase in deer populations throughout certain parts of the U.S. Another theory is that the warmer climates most states are experiencing allow ticks more time to grow and multiply.

There are a lot of myths and misconceptions surrounding ticks and tick-borne illnesses. Understanding the reality is important for keeping your family safe. Here are ten things you probably didn’t know about tick-borne illnesses as well as five things you can do to prevent tick bites, and more specifically, Lyme disease.

Ten Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Tick-Borne Illnesses

  1. Ticks are most active from the late spring to the early fall.
  2. Ticks can attach to any part of the body, but prefer hidden locations such as the groin, behind the ears, between the toes, armpits and the scalp.
  3. Most cases of Lyme disease are caused by immature ticks, called nymphs, which are about the size of a poppy seed. Because they are difficult to see, they are often not discovered. Adult ticks can also cause Lyme disease, but they are easier to spot and remove.
  4. In most cases, a tick must be attached to the host for more than 36-hours to transmit Lyme disease, which is why it is important to check your body for ticks after being outdoors.
  5. Most tick-borne illnesses occur in the eastern United States.
  6. If a pregnant woman develops Lyme disease, there is a risk of a placental infection, resulting in a possible stillbirth. Pregnant women should avoid areas where ticks may be found, such as the woods, and take preventative steps to limit the chance of a tick bite.
  7. Humans cannot develop Lyme disease from eating venison. However, meat should always be cooked fully to reduce the risk of other illnesses.
  8. Not all ticks can transmit Lyme disease and not all tick bites will develop a tick-borne illness.
  9. The CDC estimates that 300,000 people will develop Lyme disease each year, and that number will continue to rise.
  10. While dogs and cats can get Lyme disease from a tick bite, it is not contagious and they cannot infect their human families.

Five Things You Can Do to Prevent Tick Bites

  1. When in wooded areas, wear closed-toed shoes, socks, long sleeves, and long pants. If possible, stuff pant bottoms inside socks to create a barrier. Light-colored clothing is also recommended as ticks are easier to spot.
  2. Use insect repellent whenever outdoors. According to Consumer Reports, the most effective products contain 15-30% DEET. Other effective repellents that are also safe include those that contain 20% picaridin or 30% oil of lemon eucalyptus.
  3. Keep your lawn cut short and yard debris cleared away.
  4. Check yourself and your children daily for ticks. Check animals for ticks as well as ticks can fall off animals and attach to humans.
  5. If you have a garden, make it less deer-friendly by installing a deer fence.

If a tick bite occurs, remove it and save it in a zip-lock bag. Check out Consumer Reports tick removal tips here. If signs of a tick-borne illness appear, having the tick will be helpful in diagnosis. Schedule an appointment to be examined as soon as symptoms appear. Symptoms may include joint soreness, fatigue, fever, or a rash. More information on the signs and symptoms of Lyme disease can be found on the CDC website here.

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