The Great Eight: Top Tick-Borne Diseases in Connecticut

If you are starting 2021 with a healthy lifestyle, you may be spending some extra time outdoors. You are getting healthier each time you hike with your family, run the trails, or bike along a tree-lined path. Reaching health goals while in the great outdoors requires a little more than simply getting outside. You also need to be aware of your surroundings down the tiniest detail - the ticks that are alongside you each time you step outside.

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Connecticut is the home to many ticks that are known to spread diseases, including the blacklegged (deer) tick, Lone Star Tick, American Dog ticks, Asian Longhorned tick, and Gulf Coast tick. The population of ticks in Connecticut has a high rate of carrying tick-borne diseases. Additionally, Connecticut consistently reports one of the highest rates of transmission of tick-borne diseases from insect to host in the nation. These three factors mean that on your 2021 outdoor health adventures, you need to preserve your health by being vigilant to the presence of ticks.



The Great Eight


The tick-borne diseases of Connecticut vary, but the following are the most common diseases that are reported in the state: anaplasmosis, babesiosis, Borrelia miyamotoi, ehrlichiosis, Lyme, Powassan virus, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and Tularemia. While there are many ways to avoid these diseases by taking steps to avoid becoming a host to a tick, it is a good idea to be familiar with the signs and symptoms of tick-borne diseases in the event that you fall ill after being outdoors. The sooner a patient receives a correct diagnosis after contracting a tick-borne disease, the quicker proper treatment can be administered.


Anaplasmosis



The blacklegged (deer) tick is the culprit of spreading anaplasmosis through residents of Connecticut. If you are bit by a tick, please look out for the following symptoms within a few days of your potential disease transmission: fever, muscle aches, chills. While these symptoms can be explained by a common cold or inconsequential virus, leaving anaplasmosis untreated can lead to daunting health issues. Anaplasmosis can attack your respiratory system and circulatory system. If you are unaware of a tick bite but are experiencing anaplasmosis symptoms, let your doctor know of the time you have spent outside and in the potential presence of ticks. Doxycycline is the most effective antibiotic to treat anaplasmosis.


Babesiosis



Babesiosis is another disease that is transmitted by the blacklegged, or deer tick. While


animals are the primary recipients of the virus, humans can contract it on occasion. Although human diagnosis of babesiosis is rare, don’t count it out if you have been in contact with ticks. Let your doctor know about the possibility of babesiosis if you become uncharacteristically tired, lose your appetite, or experience soreness in your muscles and joints. If left untreated, patients have the potential to develop Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome. While babiosis mostly clears up on its own, some patients may benefit from treatment using the drugs clindamycin or quinine.


Borrelia miyamotoi


Sometimes presenting as anaplasmosis, the borrelia miyamotoi bacteria shares the same symptoms with the aforementioned tick-borne disease. A borrelia miyamotoi infection derives from the blacklegged (deer) tick, which populates Connecticut. Doctors can determine if a patient carries the borrelia miyamotoi bacteria through a polymerase chain reaction test or serologic test. Treatment of the bacteria include the medicines doxycycline, amoxicillin, and ceftriaxone.


Ehrlichiosis


In conjunction with its name, the brown dog tick is the species of tick that most often transmits ehrlichiosis to dogs. While you should certainly protect your pooch from ticks and tick-borne diseases, humans can also be infected. The ticks that infect humans with ehrlichiosis are the lone star tick and blacklegged (deer) tick. Similar to several other tick-borne diseases, doxycycline can be used to treat this illness and quell its symptoms of fever, muscle aches, upset stomach, and chills.


Lyme


Spread by the blacklegged (deer) tick, Lyme disease was first discovered due to an outbreak of the illness in the town of Lyme, Connecticut. This illness can present itself in the form of a red rash, fever, chills, aches in the muscles and joints, and swollen lymph nodes. When detected early, Lyme disease can be cleared up quickly with antibiotics. Left untreated, Lyme disease can result in serious repercussions to the heart and nervous system. Patients with untreated Lyme disease can experience symptoms of arthritis, heart palpitations, and even an inflamed brain and spinal cord. The longer Lyme is left untreated, the longer it takes to recover from the disease.


Powassan Virus


The Powassan virus is one of the most serious of the tick-borne diseases, as it kills 1 in 10 of its victims. Although the Powassan virus is rare, there is currently no treatment for the disease. If not asymptomatic, people with the virus may suffer from fever, headaches, vomiting, and fatigue for anywhere from a week to a year. Although unpleasant, these symptoms are highly favorable than what happens when the Powassan virus takes a more serious turn. If the virus spreads to the brain or spinal cord, patients could experience seizures, loss of control of motor functions, and general confusion. Survivors of the virus have the potential to continue to experience muscle and memory loss throughout their lifetime.


Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever


Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is another tick-borne disease where early detection is key to preventing fatality. A visible rash, headache, fever, and stomach pain are common early symptoms of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, which can be treated with doxycycline. Left untreated, however, the disease can damage blood vessels to the point of requiring the amputation of limbs. It can also cause mental health issues, loss of hearing, and paralysis. On average, 30% of people who do not receive proper medical treatment for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever die of the disease.


Tularemia


Tularemia takes many forms, but the most common type is ulceroglandular tularemia, the kind caused by a tick bite and subsequent disease transmission. Signs of ulceroglandular tularemia include headache, chills, fever, fatigue, and swollen glands. Tularemia needs to be treated with antibiotics to prevent the disease from causing pneumonia, meningitis, pericarditis, osteomyelitis, or death. Gentamicin, doxycycline, and ciprofloxacin are the most common antibiotics to treat tularemia.


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