Seven types of ticks and diseases you should know

Wilderness First Aid

There are many different types of ticks, but you should know seven in particular for the safety of you, your children, and your pets. Spend enough time hiking and no matter how good your prevention, you are bound to encounter a tick trying to make you or your dog its new home. Knowing what kinds of ticks are along your local hiking trails may help you prevent a trip to the hospital!

Black-legged Tick Identification and Range

Western Black-legged Ticks (Ixodes pacificus) live from California through the Pacific Northwest. They have also been found in scattered locations throughout the western United States. They are closely related to the Deer Tick (Ixodes scapularis), which is found in the eastern U.S. Western. Black-legged Ticks can spread Lyme Disease. Western Black-legged Ticks are also known to transmit Anaplasmosis (attack of red blood cells).

Deer Tick Identification and Range

Deer Ticks (Ixodes scapularis) are also known as Black-legged Ticks. They range from eastern Texas, the Appalachians and the eastern seaboard through the Great Lakes region. They are closely related to the Western Black-legged Tick. They are known to spread Lyme Disease. However, the CDC says the “pathogen that causes Lyme disease is maintained by wild rodent and other small mammal reservoirs, and is not transmitted everywhere that the blacklegged tick lives.” In the southern U.S., Deer Ticks have very different feeding habits, making it unlikely to spread disease to humans. Deer Ticks also transmit organisms responsible for Anaplasmosis.

American Dog Tick Identification and Range

American Dog Ticks (Dermacentor variabilis) are common throughout the eastern and midwestern United States. They are also found along the California Coast and inland. They are closely related to the Rocky Mountain Wood Tick (Dermacentor andersoni). They are known to feed on both humans and pets and are larger than most other tick species. American Dog Ticks are known to transmit Rocky Mountain Spotted-Fever and Tularemia, commonly known as Rabbit or Deer Fly Fever.  

Wood Ticks Identification and Range

Rocky Mountain Wood Ticks (Dermacentor andersoni) are found in as the name suggests, the Rocky Mountains. They can also be found in northern California and in the Pacific Northwest. They feed on large mammals such as deer, dogs and you. Rocky Mountain Wood Ticks can transmit Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, which is caused by the bacterium Rickettsia rickettsii, Tularemia and Colorado Tick Fever which is a major cause of Tick Paralysis.

Brown Dog Ticks Identification and Range

Brown Dog Ticks (Rhipicephalus sanguineus) are large and one of the most widespread ticks in the United States. They can be found from coast to coast in the Lower 48. Dogs are the primary host, but they will bite humans. Brown Dog Ticks are known to transmit Rocky Mountain Spotted-Fever. Brown Dog Ticks are also known to transmit several debilitating dog diseases. Canine Hepatozoonosis, Ehrlichiosis and Badesiosis can all be fatal if left untreated.  

Gulf Coast Ticks Identification and Range

Gulf Coast Ticks (Amblyomma maculatum) are spreading northward. Currently they are found in coastal areas along the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico, but don’t be surprised if you spot one outside of its typical residence area. Gulf Coast Ticks are known to transmit a form of Spotted Fever called Rickettsia parkeri rickettsiosis, which is closely related to Rocky Mountain Spotted-Fever. Gulf Coast Ticks are also known to transmit canine hepatozoonosis, which can be fatal to your pet.

Lone Star Ticks Identification and Range

Lone Star Ticks (Amblyomma americanum) are extremely common from Texas, north to Iowa and up through Maine. They are most commonly found on white-tailed deer, which are a major host. Lone Star Ticks are known to transmit Ehrlichiosis and Southern Tick-associated Rash Illness or STARI.


Lyme Disease Symptoms

Lyme Disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is spread by tick bites. Lyme Disease symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a circular skin rash called erythema migrans. According to the CDC this rash occurs in 70 to 80 percent of Lyme Disease victims. The rash appears at the bite site 3 to 30 days after infection, with the average being around a week. If left untreated, Lyme Disease can be fatal as the infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system.  However, most cases can be successfully treated with antibiotics. The picture above gives you a good look at some of the symptoms of Lyme Disease as well as a good idea of the relative size of ticks during their life cycle.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and other Tick Diseases

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) is caused by the bacterium Rickettsia rickettsii and is spread by tick bites. If untreated in the first few days of symptoms RMSF can be fatal to both humans and pets. Symptoms of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever include fever, headache, abdominal pain, vomiting, and muscle and joint pain. A rash may appear as well, but may take a few days to appear or may not occur at all. If a rash does appear it generally surfaces two to five days after the fever start. Small pink non-itchy blotches often first appear around joints such as wrist and ankles.

Ticks also spread Tularemia, commonly called Rabbit or Deer Fly Fever. This disease can be fatal if left untreated, but most often is treatable with antibiotics. Symptoms of Tularemia include lethargy, fever, loss of appetite and sepsis.

Anaplasmosis is a disease that attacks red blood cells. It is caused after a tick bite spreads the bacterium Anaplasma phagocytophilum. Symptoms include fever, headache, chills, muscle aches, diarrhea and anemia.

Ehrlichiosis is also spread by ticks. Symptoms usually appear 1-2 weeks after being bitten.  Symptoms of Ehrlichiosis include fever, headache, fatigue, and muscle aches.

Southern Tick-associated Rash Illness (STARI) can be spread by a tick bite. If infected by STARI, a lyme-like rash appears and is often accompanied with other symptoms such as fatigue, fever, headache, muscle and joint pains.

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