Tick-borne pathogens can be passed to humans by the bite of infected ticks. Ticks can be infected with bacteria, viruses, or parasites. Lyme disease is the most commonly reported tick-borne disease in the United State.
Ticks do not jump, crawl, or fall onto a person. They are picked up when your clothing or hair brushes a leaf or other object they are on. Ticks are generally found within three feet of the ground. Once picked up, they will crawl until they find a favorable site to feed. Often, they will find a spot at the back of a knee, near the hairline, or behind the ears.
Many tick-borne diseases can have similar signs and symptoms. If you have been bitten by a tick and develop the symptoms below within a few weeks, a health care provider should evaluate symptoms before deciding on a course of treatment:
Some of the most common tick-borne diseases in the United States include:
- Lyme disease – Most common in the Northeast. Spread by black-legged or deer tick.
- Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever – Common in the Southeast. Can be fatal if not treated soon.
- Ehrlichiosis – Common in the Southwest. Spread by the lone star tick.
- Babesiosis – Common in Northeast and upper Midwest. Spread by deer tick.
- Human Granulocytic Anaplasmosis – In Midwest, Northeast and Northern California.
The most common symptoms of tick-related illnesses are:
- Fever/chills: With all tickborne diseases, patients can experience fever at varying degrees and time of onset.
- Aches and pains: Tickborne disease symptoms include headache, fatigue, and muscle aches. With Lyme disease, you may also experience joint pain. The severity and time of onset of these symptoms can depend on the disease and the patient’s personal tolerance level.
- Rash: Lyme disease, southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI), Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF), ehrlichiosis, and tularemia can result in distinctive rashes.