Infection: Tick-Borne Diseases

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Infection: Tick-Borne Diseases

Tick-borne diseases are infectious diseases carried by small eight-legged insects belonging to the spider family. Ticks are parasites that feed on blood and usually live in weeds, shrubs, or tall grass. They cannot fly and must attach themselves directly to a deer, human, dog, or other animal passing through the grassy area. Ticks have a harpoon-like structure in their mouths that enables them to attach to their host and feed for several hours or even days.

Tick-borne diseases include those caused by bacteria (Lyme disease), viruses (various forms of encephalitis), and rickettsiae (Rocky Mountain spotted fever), which are a type of bacterium. These diseases can be difficult to diagnose because a tick may carry more than one disease organism, thus infecting a human with two diseases at the same time. Most tick-borne diseases are treated with antibiotics before the specific disease organism is identified because delayed treatment can lead to such complications as arthritis and severe fatigue. Rocky Mountain spotted fever is potentially fatal.

Tick-borne diseases are becoming increasingly common in the United States as people build homes and move into areas that were recently wilderness. Controlling the deer population, wearing protective clothing, and clearing brush and tall grass where possible are important preventive strategies.

SEE ALSO Encephalitis; Lyme disease

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Infection: Tick-Borne Diseases

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