Tiny Ticks are a Big Health Hazard
The humble tick is a very small insect. However, don’t let the diminutive size fool you. The tiny tick can pose a big threat to your health. A single bite from a tick can transmit several diseases to the host. The illness can range from treatable but bothersome illnesses to life-long problems that are resistant to treatment. That’s the bad news about tick-borne diseases. The good news is that they are preventable.
Ticks have 4 life stages and they eat blood for sustenance in 3 of them. They go from egg to larva, larva to nymph, and from nymph to adult. This process can take up to 3 years to complete. After hatching from its egg, the tick’s only food source is blood from a host organism. Each feeding can take anywhere between 10 minutes and 2 hours. Over the course of three years of those feedings, the number of hosts the tick has fed upon becomes quite large.
That host organism could be the family dog, a wild animal, a livestock animal or a human – the average tick isn’t very picky. The host doesn’t even have to be warm-blooded. A tick will feed on amphibians, birds or mammals equally happily.
In order to pierce the hides of so many different hosts, the tick has developed an efficient set of mouth parts to extract blood for nourishment. It first cuts the skin or hide of the host then inserts a tube through which it sucks the host’s blood, much like straw. The tick secretes saliva into the wound as it feeds. In some species, the saliva has anesthetic properties that prevent the host from feeling the injury to its skin. If that saliva contains some kind of pathogen, it will be transmitted directly into the host’s bloodstream almost like a tiny injection.
When feeding, the tick will drink in any pathogens contained in the host’s blood. Those pathogens can be transmitted to the next host via the tick’s saliva.
When asked about tick-borne diseases, most people in the US will name Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. These are two of the most prevalent diseases passed by ticks but they are not alone. Here are a few more noted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Tick-Borne Relapsing Fever
- Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness
Many of these diseases can be treated with high-powered antibiotics but some can have lasting effects. Lyme Disease, if left untreated, can spread to the joints, central nervous systems and the heart. Even if treated effectively, Lyme Disease can leave the human host with a long-term inflammatory response that mimics an auto-immune disorder.
Preventing the tick bite will prevent the transmission of these diseases. Use integrated pest management techniques to rid you property of hunting ticks. Your pest control agent can advise you on how to create a backyard environment that is unfriendly to ticks and other biting insects. He can teach you about plants that won’t attract wild animals like deer and rabbits that often carry ticks. He will show you how to keep your lawn clear of leaf litter to reduce tick hunting grounds. You agent may also advise you to trim back tree branches to prevent tick from reaching your soil. He can talk to you about your pets and their bedding and how to keep both tick-free.
Consider calling your pest control agent before the season is too old. Preventing the bite will prevent the transmission of a tick-borne disease.