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Tick, Tick, Tick Part 4 – Symptoms of Tickborne Illness

- August 22, 2017 by Mike Pettit (View all posts by Mike)

Over the course of this blog series regarding ticks, we covered the types and geographical locations of ticks, how to avoid and prevent tick bites and how to find and remove ticks. In the last blog of the series, I’ll address the symptoms of known tickborne illnesses and treatment efforts.

Symptoms

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), many tickborne diseases can have similar signs and symptoms. The most common symptoms include the following:

  • Fever / Chills – Can experience fever at varying degrees and time of onset.
  • Aches / Pains – Headache, fatigue, and muscle aches (with Lyme disease, joint pain can also be a symptom). The level of severity and time of onset of symptoms can depend on the type of disease and the affected person’s tolerance level
  • Rashes – Based on type of disease.
  • Lyme – May appear within 3-30 days, typically before a fever. A rash is the first sign of an infection, and is usually a circular rash. The rash occurs in ~70-80% of infected persons, and begins at the site of a tick bite (additional rashes may be developed in other areas of the body several days later).
  • Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness (STARI) – Nearly identical to Lyme disease, with a red, expanding “bulls eye” that develops around the site of a Lone Star tick bite. Unlike Lyme disease, STARI has not been associated with arthritic or neurological symptoms.
  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) – The rashes vary greatly from person to person in appearance, locations, and time of onset. Approximately 10% of people with RMSF never develop a rash. The rashes may appear within 2-5 days after the onset of fever as small, flat, pink, non-itchy spots on the forearms, wrists, and ankles, and eventually spreads to the trunk (in some cases, the palms and soles are also affected). In 35-60% of those with the RMSF infection, the red to purple, spotted rashes are usually not seen until the sixth day, or later.
  • Tularemia – The rash is more of a skin ulcer where the organism entered the body. Swelling affects the regional lymph glands, typically in the armpit or groin.
  • Treatment Efforts

    According to the CDC, “Antibiotic treatment following a tick bite is not recommended as a means to prevent anaplasmosis, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, or Rocky Mountain spotted fever. There is no evidence this practice is effective, and it may simply delay onset of disease.”

    “Instead, persons who experience a tick bite should be alert for symptoms suggestive of tickborne illness and consult a physician if fever, rash, or other symptoms of concern develop.”

    Now that the types and geographical locations of ticks, how to avoid and prevent tick bites, how to find and remove ticks, and the symptoms of tickborne illness and treatment efforts have been addressed, let’s do what we can to prevent tick-related incidents.

     
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