Ticks are arachnids, like spiders, scorpions and mites, from the Class Arachnida. While most tick bites do not transmit infectious disease, some very serious infections can be contracted from the bite of this vector.

Ixodes scapularis/CDC

Most ticks go through four life stages: egg, six-legged larva, eight-legged nymph, and adult. After hatching from the eggs, ticks must eat blood at every stage to survive. Ticks that require this many hosts can take up to 3 years to complete their full life cycle, and most will die because they don’t find a host for their next feeding.

Ticks can feed on mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Most ticks prefer to have a different host animal at each stage of their life.

In the US, the four most commonly reported tickborne diseases are Lyme disease, Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis and Anaplasmosis.

In 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that the number of Americans diagnosed with Lyme disease each year is around 300,000, or about 10-times the number of cases reported to the federal health agency annually.

In 2015 through the first 10 months of the year, 30,278 Lyme disease cases have been reported, just a hair above the number of case seen during the same period in 2014.

The Mid-Atlantic and New England states reported the most cases with Pennsylvania seeing the most by far with  9,751 cases, accounting for nearly a third of all cases in the US. This is followed by New Jersey ( 3,250), Upstate New York (3,028) and Massachusetts (2,523).

To date, 1,557 cases of the tickborne parasitic infection, Babesiosis cases have been reported to date. The most cases were reported from Upstate New York (361), Massachusetts (347) and Connecticut (263).

Massachusetts has seen the most cases of anaplasmosis to date in 2015 with 573 cumulative. Upstate New York (573) and Wisconsin (400) follow.

There has been slightly more than 1,000 cases of Ehrlichiosis caused by Ehrlichia chaffeensis with Arkansas (177) and Missouri (170) the only states reporting over 100 cases.

Ehrlichiosis is the general name used to describe several bacterial diseases that affect animals and humans. The lone star tick (Amblyomma americanum) is the primary vector of Ehrlichia chaffeensis  in the United States. Typical symptoms include: fever, headache, fatigue, and muscle aches. Usually, these symptoms occur within 1-2 weeks following a tick bite. Ehrlichios is diagnosed based on symptoms, clinical presentation, and later confirmed with specialized laboratory tests. The first line treatment for adults and children of all ages is doxycycline.  Ehrlichiosis and other tickborne diseases can be prevented.

Robert Herriman is a microbiologist and the Editor-in-Chief of Outbreak News Today and the Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch

Follow @bactiman63