Published: July 6, 2010
Updated: July 6, 2010
By Emily Mitchell
Tiny ticks -- blood-sucking arachnids found in North Carolina and throughout the world -- can cause enormous health problems when their bite is undetected and untreated.
Paul Lantos, MD, pediatric infectious disease specialist at Duke, explains what you need to know about ticks and their bites, and recommends ways you can prevent common tick-borne illnesses.
Different ticks carry different diseases. Click through the slideshow to learn about different ticks and the diseases they carry.
The good news for people living in North Carolina is that you aren’t likely to contract Lyme disease around here. More than 90 percent of all cases of Lyme disease occur in the Northeast and most of the rest occur in the upper Midwest.
There have been a few confirmed cases of Lyme disease that were contracted in NC, but this appears to be a very rare event.
The bad news is that NC is the top location in the U.S. for contracting Rocky Mountain spotted fever -- and this tick-borne illness can have deadly outcomes.
The map below shows where you are most likely to contract vector-borne illnesses in the United States. The darker colors indicate the highest risk areas for contracting the respective diseases.
It takes at least 24 hours for ticks to transmit disease-causing bacteria to humans, so you have a relatively long window of time in which to remove the tick and prevent infection.
Lantos’ tips for preventing tick-borne illness include:
If you find a tick feasting on your blood, don’t panic. According to Lantos, many ticks don’t carry the bacteria for these common vector-borne illnesses, and even if you’re bitten by a tick that carries the bacteria, you aren’t necessarily going to contract a disease.
Instead of running to the ER, follow these steps:
Symptoms attributed to chronic Lyme disease include fatigue, joint pains, and cognitive problems.
Lantos notes, "These symptoms are not at all specific to Lyme disease. In fact, these symptoms may actually be indicative of other serious diseases. The term 'chronic Lyme disease' lacks any clinical or biological definition, and, because of this, one cannot really speak of it as a recognized disease."
Lantos recently participated on a national committee to review the Infectious Diseases Society of America's Lyme disease guidelines. After reviewing many clinical trials, the panel concluded that the treatment of Lyme disease through prolonged antibiotic courses does not improve patient outcomes any more than placebo.
Prolonged antibiotics can even pose a great risk for patients because of side-effects caused by the drugs or the intravenous catheters used to administer them.
Lantos encourages patients that the initial, two-to-four week course of antibiotics used to treat most cases of Lyme disease almost always wipes out the bacteria that cause this disease.