With a Tick Boom, It’s Not Just Lyme Disease You Have to Fear
Everyone knows Lyme disease. But experts say the United States can be at a bad tic train station this summer, raising concerns about Lyme and other diseases transmitted by horrible ticks, including the Powassan virus, which causes encephalitis and can leave the People with permanent neurological damage.
“This spring certainly looks worse than others I remember,” said Catherine Wiley, chief of the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center general pediatrics. “People come to the field with a lot of ticks on them.”
When we think of ticks, we tend to think of deer, but Richard S. Ostfeld, a senior scientist at the Cary Institute for Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, New York, said it really was mouse.
He studied the ecology of the white-footed mice population for 25 years. Every four or five years, he said, there is an overwhelming rubber culture, so more mice survive the next winter, breed and reach what he calls the “pest levels of mice” in summer.
These mice will be the main source of infection for tick larvae larvae in August and can join many mammals and birds, who try to prepare them. Mice “are merely tedious hairdressers,” said Dr. Ostfeld, so his ticks tend to survive. These tick larvae then become pupae and remain dormant for the following winter.
Then in late spring until early summer, the nymphs start feeding. These nymphs, larvae infected by mice, transmit the infection to humans.
“We are likely to see more marks, and many of us have already begun to see more ticks for transmission infections,” said Dr. Nicholas Bennett, head of the Division of Infectious Pediatric Immunology at the Children’s Medical Center Connecticut.
“By far the most common infection I see is Lyme,” said Dr. Bennett. The bacteria is present in many ticks – more than half of them in parts – but only about 3 percent of tick bites lead to infection.
Once the rod is attached and begins to feed, bacteria must undergo maturation within the tick before transmission is possible, so it will take at least 36 hours from the time in an infected tick bites until Lyme disease can be transmitted, so worry about Lyme if you find and remove a patch shortly after a child has been out. (On the other hand, if you find this check, you are reminded that it is in an endemic area and there may have been other bites.)
The classic symptoms of Lyme disease is the rash called migratory erythema. However, the diagnosis is not always obvious. “Half of the people who have clear Lyme do not remember they have never been bitten and have a rash,” said Dr. Bennett.
If a child does not improve with the usual antibiotic treatment, doctors may suspect a second infection, such as babesiosis and anaplasmosis, since some ticks carry more than one disease and, like the first-line antibiotics we use in children in Lyme , Treat other tick-borne infections.
Anaplasmosis and babesiosis are less common, according to Dr. Bennett, although regional infection rates may vary. And Powassan, although it is the rarest, is alarming, since it can happen so quickly, and because, being a viral infection, there is no antibiotic treatment.
Detailed information on all diseases transmitted by ticks is available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.