An Indiana toddler recently died from Rocky Mountain Spotted fever and the tragedy has sparked an information storm concerning the fact that tick-borne diseases are on the rise across the United States.
Doctors and researchers are discovering that the Western tick-related disease has been steadily migrating east. Mid-Western and Southern states are seeing increased infections. Rocky Mountain Fever has flown under the radar in many parts of the country because it has long been considered a regional health threat. That was the case with the Indiana child as physicians were unclear about the nature of the illness until it was too late.
The Mid-West has also been tallying up its share of the Northeastern, tick-associated Lyme Disease outbreak. The name is derived from its place of origin, Lyme, CT, and it has plagued New Englanders with life-long, debilitating symptoms that include chronic pain and illnesses that can prove fatal. Lyme Disease has burst out of its provincial chains and appears to have crossed the middle states and continues on a westward trek. Other formerly localized tick-transmitted diseases are also reportedly on the prowl.
The Powassan Virus (POW) took root in deer ticks from the Ontario, Canada, region. Like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, it levels a high fatality rate. Experts say that approximately 15 percent of those infected don’t survive. More than half of those who do survivor suffer permanent neurological damage. Powassan has already migrated to the surrounding Great Lakes region and into many northern U.S. states.
Tick-Borne Disease Symptoms and Prevention
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention warns that tick season runs from May through August and warm Winters and early Springs may increase the timeline and tick population. The spread of Lyme Disease, for instance, has tripled during the last 20 years. Today, more than 300,000 Americans become infected through tick bites each year. Recognizing symptoms and getting prompt treatment can help prevent the escalating health dangers from tick-borne diseases.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever: Early symptoms manifest between 2-14 days and include rash, fever, nausea, muscle aches and red eyes. It may resemble other common illnesses and misdiagnosis is concerning because many antibiotics increase the risk of death. It must be treated with doxycycline.
Lyme Disease: Early symptoms include a rash around the bite between 3-30 days, flu-like symptoms, chills, chronic pain and exhaustion. Treatment includes common antibiotics such as doxycycline, amoxicillin or cefuroxime axetil. If treated in a timely fashion, many patients make a full recovery in a few weeks. If untreated, it can lead to long-term health issues.
Powassan: Early symptoms include fever, disorientation, difficulty speaking and vomiting. According to the CDC, no vaccine or specific medication has been developed to combat POW. In most cases, hospitalization is necessary for survival.
The best prevention from tick bites is to avoid contact with Deer Ticks. The smaller Dog Ticks tend to not carry these diseases. Staying out of forest brush and tall fields is advisable. Proper clothing that includes long sleeves and pants can stave off a quick bite. Clothing can be treated with tick repellants and you should always check yourself thoroughly after being outdoors. Ticks tend to look for warm areas such as inner thighs, arm pits and also like to burrow into hair. However, a tick can bite anywhere.