The northeast US is home to a remarkably large population of ticks that have been transmitting debilitating diseases to humans in the region for decades. The proportion of lyme-carrying specimens within the region’s native tick population has been increasing with each passing year, and consequently, so has the rate of new lyme-infection cases. The most common tick-borne diseases affecting residents of the northeast include lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, anaplasmosis and babesiosis. Lyme disease is easily the most common tick-borne disease in the US, as more than 30,000 new lyme infection cases are reported annually in the country, the majority of which occur in the northeast and upper midwest. However, officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believe that the true annual rate of new lyme infection cases is around 350,000 in the US, as most new cases are not reported. Unfortunately, it does not take long for ticks to transmit disease-causing microorganisms after they become embedded in the skin.
Once a deer tick attaches itself to human skin, it takes between 24 and 48 hours for the specimen to pass lyme-causing bacteria to humans. It is extremely unlikely that a tick will transmit lyme bacteria to humans in less than 24 hours of blood-feeding, and it probably takes closer to 48 hours before a human host contracts the disease. Ticks are able to transmit bacteria that cause anaplasmosis and the recently discovered Borrelia miyamotoi disease to their human hosts after one or possibly two days of feeding. The parasite that causes Babesiosis disease can be transmitted from tick to human host in a little more than 36 hours, but ticks can transmit viral diseases within minutes. For example, deer ticks can transmit the Powassan virus to humans in only 15 minutes, and bacteria causing Rocky Mountain spotted fever can be transmitted in as little as 2 hours. Unfortunately, an embedded tick carrying microorganisms that cause Powasson or Rocky Mountain spotted fever is unlikely to be noticed and removed in time to prevent infection. However, it is important to thoroughly inspect one’s skin, especially the scalp, after spending time outdoors, as ticks that transmit diseases that take more than one day to contract can be removed in time to prevent infection. If a tick is found embedded in the skin, taking a shower will allow bite victims to carefully inspect their skin for additional ticks.
Have you ever discovered a tick embedded in your skin?