Not too long ago, most people weren’t aware of Lyme disease. The scientific community didn’t even know that it was carried by ticks until the 1980’s, and it took many more years before the disease became common knowledge among the public. But that’s not the case anymore. These days, pretty much everyone knows about it, and it’s widely reported on by the media every year before and during tick season.
While that, of course, is a good thing, it’s gotten to the point where people automatically think of Lyme disease when they hear about ticks. But they probably can’t list any other tick-borne illnesses, or what their symptoms are. That’s unfortunate, because there so many kinds of diseases that are carried by ticks, and you should be aware of them all. The some of the most common that are found in North America include the following:
- Powassan Virus is often difficult to diagnose, and very few labs can test for it. Symptoms usually emerge between 1-3 weeks after being exposed, and initial symptoms include a headache, nausea, confusion, and fever. As conditions worsen, symptoms include seizures, impaired movement, and aphasia, which causes victims to lose the ability to comprehend language. 10% of people who are infected with Powassan die and 50% suffer from permanent mental effects.
- Colorado Tick Fever is typically found in the mountainous regions of the Western United States and Canada. Symptoms, which include light sensitivity, nausea, rash, fever, muscle pain, headaches, as well as swelling of the liver and spleen, often emerge within a week of exposure. After that, they often disappear before re-emerging for a period of 1-3 days. This cycle of illness can go on for weeks, and increase in severity each time until the victim recovers.
- Tick-borne Relapsing Fever is similar to Colorado Tick Fever, in that symptoms can emerge and disappear several times before the victim recovers. Symptoms usually show up between five and fifteen days after being bitten, and include rashes, fever, chills, headaches, and muscle pain, and can go on for weeks if the disease is not treated.
- Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is one of the most lethal tick-borne illnesses in the United States, and people throughout North America can be infected with it. It takes one to two weeks for symptoms to emerge, which include a headache, vomiting, fever, muscle pain, loss of appetite, and inflammation in the salivary glands. Later symptoms include pink eye, joint pain, and confusion, as well as pink spotty rashes throughout the body.
- Tularemia, also known as Rabbit Fever, has symptoms that typically show up within three to five days of exposure, and include fever, loss of appetite, and whole body weakness. Most notably, it can lead to sepsis and organ failure. For people who seek treatment, the survival rate is 99% but drops to 93% when not treated.
Fortunately, these diseases have many symptoms in common, like fever, lethargy and muscle pain, nausea, and headaches. It’s safe to say that if you fall ill in the days or weeks following a tick bite, don’t assume it’s something innocuous like the flu. Seek medical treatment as soon as possible.