Lyme Disease along with Babesiosis, Anaplasmosis, and Ehrlichiosis makes ticks one of the most dangerous pests you can encounter in Massachusetts. As tick-borne diseases are on the rise it is critical that you protect yourself, your family, and your pets so you can enjoy your property.
Mosquito Squad of Central Mass can eliminate 85-90% of all ticks in your yard for the entire season. We use our traditional barrier spray starting from the perimeter of your property all the way in, paying extra close attention to all of the cool shady places ticks like to hide. The barrier spray eliminates ticks on contact and continues to work for up to 3 weeks with our timed-release formula. For additional protection, we place our tick tubes twice a year to eliminate larval and nymph ticks as they nest with the rodents on your property.
Here at Mosquito Squad of Central Mass, we realize that some of your outdoor activities are not all taking place in your own yard. Read on to learn about the most common tick-borne illnesses and what to look for if you should happen to get a tick bite. Whether you are going camping, hiking, canoeing, or just to a backyard barbecue in an untreated yard, you need to be aware of what to watch out for to stay safe and healthy.
Below we will provide the information about tick-borne diseases our Central Mass homeowners should know.
Lyme Disease is a bacterial infection transmitted by ticks. If you contract Lyme Disease in Central Mass, you caught it from a black-legged tick, also known as a deer tick. Adult ticks live in brushy wooded areas, tall grass, leaf piles and along the base of fences and brick walls. You also may have contracted it from a nymph (teenage) black-legged tick, no bigger than a poppy seed.
One of the first signs of Lyme Disease is a red, expanding rash called erythema migrans (EM) otherwise referred to as a bulls-eye rash. The rash occurs in about 70-80% of Lyme disease cases at the site of the tick bite usually within 3-30 days after being bitten. During that time you may also experience fatigue, fever, chills, headache, muscle and joint aches and swollen lymph nodes.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) if left untreated the infection may spread from the site of the bite to other parts of the body causing various symptoms that may come and go. These symptoms include bulls-eye rashes on other areas of the body, Bell’s Palsy (facial paralysis), severe headaches and stiff neck due to meningitis, pain and swelling in large joints, shooting pains, heart palpitations and dizziness due to change in heartbeat (Lyme carditis). Many of these symptoms will resolve on their own in weeks or months, but left untreated could lead to further complications and even death.
If you experience any of these symptoms and believe you have been exposed to black-legged ticks, see your doctor immediately. A trained professional will help diagnose you with a combination of observed signs and symptoms, your history of tick exposure, and finally laboratory blood tests. Blood tests are not a perfect science for Lyme Disease in that they measure for your body’s immune response to the pathogen, not the pathogen itself. This means it is extremely difficult to get an accurate early diagnosis without a full report of symptoms and exposure from the patient.
Oral antibiotics are the commonly prescribed treatment for Lyme Disease. If you catch it early and get the appropriate treatment, you will usually recover rapidly and completely. Some patients with certain cardiac or neurological illness may require intravenous treatment.
Untreated Lyme Disease can lead to complications such as Bell’s palsy, sixty percent of patients will experience intermittent arthritis, 5% may develop chronic neurological complaints including shooting pains, numbness or tingling in the hands or feet, and problems with short-term memory.
Approximately 10-20% of treated patients (mostly those who were diagnosed later) will experience long-lasting symptoms such as muscle and joint pain, cognitive difficulties, sleep disturbances or fatigue. This condition is known as Post-treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome (PTLDS) and sometimes Chronic Lyme Disease.
According to the CDC, if you have PTLDS, be aware that it will almost always subside with time. During that time it can be difficult to cope with your symptoms. Make sure to keep your doctor in the loop as he/she can help you effectively manage the symptoms with all of the tools available to them as you wait for the symptoms to pass. Go to the CDC for more on PTLDS.
Other tick-borne illnesses are becoming more widespread with the growth of the tick population. These diseases are less common but still dangerous and can even be deadly. Knowing how to prevent tick bites and infection is important, but it is critical to know what signs and symptoms to watch for after a bite or exposure to ticks.
Anaplasmosis and Babesiosis are both transmitted by the black-legged, or deer tick. Both diseases are most prevalent in Northeast and Upper-Midwest United States. Both have some very similar flu-like symptoms: fever, chills, nausea, headaches, and body aches. That is where the similarities stop. Anaplasmosis and Babesiosis are very different infections.
Anaplasmosis is caused by a bacteria. When treated promptly with antibiotics, patients usually recover often with no lasting effects. However, Anaplasmosis can be fatal when not treated correctly or in patients with a compromised immune system such as those being treated with chemotherapy. Signs of a severe case of Anaplasmosis can include kidney failure, neurological problems, difficulty breathing, or hemorrhage.
Babesiosis is caused by microscopic parasites. These parasites infect red blood cells which can cause a special type of anemia called hemolytic anemia. Jaundice (yellowing of the skin) and dark urine are symptoms to watch for. Babesiosis can be especially dangerous and even life-threatening to people who don’t have a spleen, are elderly, have a weakened immune system, or who have other serious health conditions.
Both Anaplasmosis and Babesiosis are diagnosed with a combination of observed symptoms, history of exposure, and studying blood smears under a microscope. It is critical to pay attention to your body after you’ve been exposed to ticks or pulled a tick off of yourself to recognize the symptoms early and seek proper treatment.
In 2013 the number of cases of Babesiosis in Massachusetts rose 40% from 2012 to 420 cases including two fatalities. For the first time ever, Babesiosis was identified in every county in our state. The number of Anaplasmosis cases in Massachusetts in 2013 rose slightly to 329 cases (including at least 1 fatality) from 2012 which marked a 60% increase from 2011. If you think you have contracted either Babesiosis or Anaplasmosis, contact your doctor right away.
Transmitted by the Lonestar Tick, commonly found in southeastern and southcentral United States, Ehrlichiosis is a broad term covering several different infections. Ehrlichia chaffeensis, Ehrlichia ewingii and Ehrlichia muris are the three bacterial infections that fit under the broader term. Symptoms develop in 1-2 weeks after being bitten by an infected tick.
While symptoms of Ehrlichiosis vary from patient to patient they can include fever, headache, chills, malaise, muscle pain, nausea/vomiting/diarrhea, confusion, conjunctival injection (red eyes), and rash. The rash presents in up to 60% of children and less than 30% of adults.
If not treated properly Ehrlichiosis can be fatal even in previously healthy people. Individuals who are immune compromised appear to develop a more serious case of the disease and a higher fatality rate. Severe cases can present themselves with difficulty breathing or bleeding disorders. 1.8% of Ehrlichiosis cases result in death.
If caught early, patients will be given a course of antibiotics to take at home. If the case becomes severe or is diagnosed late, it may require intravenous antibiotics and prolonged hospital care.
Similar to other tick-borne infections, diagnosing Ehrlichiosis is dependent upon symptom observation and history of exposure. Blood tests to confirm are not accurate in the first 7-10 days and should not be waited for to start treatment.
Preventing encounters with ticks is the best way to avoid tick-borne illnesses. And while you can’t keep ticks out of public parks and hiking trails, you can protect yourself in the place where you spend most of your outdoor time, your own yard.
Our Mosquito Squad of Central Mass professionals utilize both barrier sprays that eliminate adult ticks on the spot as well as “tick tubes” that effectively eliminate nymph ticks.