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Diseases & Topics

Tick-Borne Illnesses

Ticks are small, bloodsucking arthropods that can transmit diseases to humans and animals. Most of the tick-borne diseases in North Carolina are from a bacterial infection and can cause flu-like symptoms in people. They can be treated with antibiotics if caught early. Untreated, they may lead to serious health problems, including death in rare cases. Several illnesses transmitted by ticks are found in North Carolina:

Most tick-borne illnesses are characterized by a rash, fever and flu-like symptoms, including fever, headache muscle aches and joint pain. Prompt medical treatment, often with antibiotics, helps alleviate symptoms and prevent the development of more serious illness and long-term aftereffects.

Other tick-borne diseases of note include anaplasmosis and babesiosis. Anaplasmosis is a tick-borne bacterial disease that is found mostly in New England and in the upper Midwest and causes similar flu-like symptoms. Babesiosis is caused by microscopic parasites that infect red blood cells. Babesiosis is primarily found in the Northeast and Midwestern U.S. and requires a different type of treatment.

Ticks are common in all areas of North Carolina. The more time spent outdoors, especially in wooded areas, can increase your risk of acquiring a tick-borne illness. Tick-borne illnesses are easily prevented by taking measures to reduce tick bites while outdoors.

To reduce your chances of being bitten by a tick or acquiring a tick-borne illness, read CDC's advice about ticks External link.

Even after being bitten, it takes several hours for the tick to transmit the pathogen. Prompt removal can greatly reduce your chances of becoming ill. After being outdoors, a thorough "tick check" can help you detect any unwanted passengers. Pay particular attention to the scalp, and any areas where clothing is tight, such as waistbands, groin, armpits, etc. where ticks like to hide. If a tick is found, remove it by grasping with tweezers as close to the skin as possible and slowly and firmly pulling straight out until the tick lets go. Nail polish, petroleum jelly or hot matches will not make a tick let go. Wash your hands and the bite area with soap and water, and clean the bite with disinfectant. For later identification should you become ill, you can save the tick in a jar, plastic bag or tape it to an index card using clear tape. Make sure you write down the date the tick was removed. If you develop any flu-like symptoms over the next several weeks, see your doctor and let him/her know you were bitten.

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