Gary L. Pierce
Horticulture Extension Agent
Q: What are the odds of getting a tick related disease?
A: In general, dealing with ticks is a numbers game. The odds of any person getting a tick disease depend on their exposure to the great outdoors. People that play golf, soccer, hike, fish and other outdoor sports/hobbies are at greater risk. Gardeners have little bulls eyes painted all over them.
“Indoor” folks sometimes cut the grass, get a flat tire, own pets or sit on a park bench. These infrequent activities can still put you at risk of picking up a bloodsucking hitchhiker. I can safely say that the odds of any person contracting a tick disease are greater than winning the Powerball lottery.
First, there are four basic ticks in North Carolina – American Dog, Brown Dog, Lone Star and Black-legged. Each of these ticks has four stages of development – egg, larval, nymph and adult. Brown dog ticks don’t bite humans very often. Black-legged ticks also have few encounters with humans. American Dog tick is the most common tick in central and western NC. The Lone Star tick is most common in eastern NC.
Photos and more information are available through the North Carolina State University's website.
There are four basic tick diseases in North Carolina – STARI (Southern Tick Associated Rash Infection), Ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme Disease. STARI and Ehrlichiosis are aggravating, but do not cause any lasting effects.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is by far the most deadly. It typically kills a third of people that get it (if untreated). North Carolina is tied with Oklahoma for most annual cases of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Lyme Disease gets all the media attention, but it is not as common in North Carolina. Lyme Disease is typically not fatal, but can certainly make your life miserable for many years (if untreated).
The Black-legged tick can carry Ehrlichiosis and Lyme Disease. The Lone Star tick can carry Ehrlichiosis, STARI and in a few cases Lyme Disease. The American Dog tick is the big carrier of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Easterners are more likely to get Lyme, Ehrlichiosis or STARI. Folks in central or western NC are more likely to contract Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
Researchers at Old Dominion University in eastern Virginia have identified a new tick population and disease. It seems the Gulf Coast tick has flown north on birds. It brings a disease called Tidewater Spotted Fever. It is like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, but not thought to be fatal at this time.
Most ticks do not carry any disease. A person may pull ticks every year their entire life and never get a tick disease. On the other hand, the primary window of symptom occurrence is 2 to 14 days after a tick bites. Whenever a biting tick is removed, mark it on the calendar. This information may be very helpful to your doctor.
For more info on ticks, visit http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/ent/notes/Urban/ticks.htm If you do not have internet access then call the Extension Office at 910-893-7530 or email me at email@example.com
A new tick has been discovered in Washington D.C. It is the Lying Dog tick. It carries a disease called Beltway Gridlock. This disease causes a person to use only half their brain. Other neurological effects include selective hearing loss, inability to perform mathematical computations and incoherent, contradictory babbling. While previously not considered fatal, it can cause a person to live a zombie-like existence. Brains! Brains!