Back to Top Skip to main content

Tick Facts: Dangers at the height of tick season

A tick like this one, seen at 10x magnification, can spread a number of dangerous pathogens during the warm-weather months. (Photo by Cornel Constantin) A tick like this one, seen at 10x magnification, can spread a number of dangerous pathogens during the warm-weather months. (Photo by Cornel Constantin)

Recommended Content:

Bug-Borne Illnesses | Tick-Borne Illnesses | Health Readiness | Preventive Health | Public Health

From April to September, tick activity spikes throughout the United States. With high tick activity comes the importance of increasing awareness of common tick-borne illnesses and how to prevent them.

According to Army Maj. Elizabeth Wanja, of the Uniformed Services University for Health Sciences, outdoor activities during peak tick season raise the chances of transmitting pathogens from living organisms that can carry diseases. These organisms include mosquitos, fleas and, you guessed it, ticks.

“Outdoor activities like farming, camping, and military training exercises in grasslands or edges of the forest increase chances of these pathogens’ transmission,” Wanja said.

Information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that 77 percent of all insect-borne diseases are carried by ticks. Lyme disease, transmitted through bites from deer ticks, remains the most common of these diseases. However, Lyme is not the only disease to be aware of. Here are five other tick-borne pathogens to be aware of:

Ehrlichiosis, which commonly occurs in the Southeast, South Central, and Midwest U.S., is transmitted to humans primarily by a bite of an infected lone star tick, which is native to this region. Symptoms include fever, chills, headache, muscles aches, and the occasional upset stomach. Ehrlichiosis can be treated in adults and children with the antibiotic Doxycycline.

Anaplasmosis occurs in the Northeast, mid-Atlantic, upper Midwest and West Coast of the U.S. and is transmitted through a bite of the blacklegged tick and the western blacklegged tick. Anaplasmosis has the same symptoms and treatment as ehrlichiosis – the main difference being the tick that carries the disease.

Rocky Mountain spotted fever is caused by infection from a bacterial organism. It is transmitted by a bite of an infected American dog tick, brown dog tick, and the Rocky Mountain wood tick. This is commonly reported in the Southeast U.S. This infection causes high fever, headache, and rash, and can be deadly if not treated with Doxycycline.

Powassan virus is a rare, tick-borne flavivirus that can have severe effects on the human nervous system. The deer tick transmits Powassan, which is a rare infection that’s on the rise, with 33 cases in 2017 alone. There are currently no vaccines or treatments for Powassan virus infection, so hospitalization is imperative to help with breathing complications and brain swelling.

The most peculiar tick-borne disease on the list, alpha-gal syndrome, occurs when the alpha-gal sugar molecule – often found in red meats like beef and pork – is transmitted into the human body. This molecule has been associated with the bite of the lone star tick, transmitted through saliva. Studies are still ongoing to find a specific link between alpha-gal syndrome and ticks, but the result for a human can be a tick-caused red meat allergy.

Tick-borne illnesses can also be transported overseas. U.S. military personnel and their family members deploy to various regions of the world, where they can be exposed to arthropod-borne diseases that the rest of the U.S. population does not encounter.

“These deployments expose service members and families to novel pathogens which may be introduced in the U.S. when infected personnel redeploy back home,” Wanja said.

Luckily, there are various ways to reduce the chances of getting tick-borne infections. They include avoiding areas where ticks may be found and checking for ticks if someone conducts activities that might bring them into tick-prone areas.

Use of skin-topical repellents and treated clothing, wearing of pants tucked in shoes and boots, and proper removal of ticks to avoid pathogens being injected into the body can also prevent the spread of these illnesses.

For more prevention tips and ways to identify different bugs and bites, visit the Military Health System’s Bug Week page.

You also may be interested in...

MHS immunization experts will answer questions about flu vaccine

Article
9/16/2020
Soldier giving another soldier a flu shot

Real-time Facebook event set for 3-4 p.m. EDT Sept. 17

Recommended Content:

Immunizations | Preventive Health | Public Health | Coronavirus

Wildfire smoke wreaks havoc on respiratory and immune systems

Article
9/11/2020
Picture of a military tent; an orange, smoky hue surrounds the tent and soldiers

State and country health advisory alerts on diminished air quality have been posted and shared to alert local populations.

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Coronavirus

From Ghana to Washington, Sailor provides leadership during COVID-19

Article
9/10/2020
Female soldier with mask

Acquiring supplies, in general, has been a hurdle worldwide.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Health Readiness

Thirteen years ago Ft. Knox prepared for outbreak scenarios

Article
9/10/2020
Front page of newspaper

Some of the preventive measures that surfaced from the 2007 exercise included the wearing of facial coverings, regular sanitizing of surfaces and social distancing by such means as teleworking.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Public Health

Army radiology instructor and medic render assistance to crash victim

Article
9/2/2020
Mom and Dad in military gear with their young son.

Their medical training helped with knowing the steps for CPR and how to check responsiveness and breathing.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Public Health

Elective surgeries resume within the San Antonio Military Health System

Article
8/25/2020
Two surgeons in an operating room

Patients whose procedures were delayed will be contacted by their surgical team or clinic.

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Coronavirus

Air Force updates medical courses with COVID-19 content, procedures

Article
8/24/2020
Two technicians in full PPE in a lab

COVID-19 has shed new light on the methods of conducting medical training and education.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Health Readiness | Combat Support

Sleep, Healthy Diet, and Good Exercise—Your Invisible Body Armor Against Infection

Article
8/24/2020
Soldier holding a bowl of lettuce and vegetables

[P]reventive maintenance is necessary to ensure continuous readiness and maximum performance.

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health | August Toolkit

Air Force invention kills toxins on contact

Article
8/20/2020
Man in white coat doing experiments

An Air Force invention could be key to reducing the amount of airborne microbes...inside buildings and homes.

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Coronavirus | Health and Housing | Mold | Health and Housing

NMHM looks back at the 1918 ‘Spanish flu’ for one Maryland county

Article
8/19/2020
Black and white image of hospital beds lined up in rows, occupied by sick people

The 1918 flu resembled a more severe cold.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Public Health

Back-to-school vaccinations in the age of coronavirus

Article
8/12/2020
Medical technician wearing a mask, filling an immunization needle

DHA experts answer questions about back-to-school vaccines

Recommended Content:

Immunization Healthcare | Vaccine-Preventable Diseases | Public Health | Preventive Health | Children's Health | Immunizations | August Toolkit

Air Force updates medical courses with COVID-19 content, procedures

Article
8/7/2020
Two lab technicians wearing full PPE handling vials for testing

COVID-19 has pushed instructors and trainers to be more innovative.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Health Readiness | Combat Support

Indiana National Guard continues to train in the COVID-19 environment

Article
8/5/2020
Soldiers in the field, wearing masks and testing equipment

Training in a time of COVID-19

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Health Readiness

MSMR Vol. 27 No. 8 - August 2020

Report
8/1/2020

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Commentary: The limited role of vaccines in the prevention of acute gastroenteritis; Diarrhea and associated illness characteristics and risk factors among British active duty service members at Askari Storm training exercise, Nanyuki, Kenya, January–June 2014; Surveillance snapshot: Norovirus outbreaks in military forces, 2015–2019; Update: Incidence of acute gastrointestinal infections and diarrhea, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2010–2019.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Public Health

AFHSB tracks bugs worldwide to protect service members

Article
7/29/2020
Group of people in forest gathering samples

The GEIS FVBI program supports vector and vector-borne disease surveillance projects in more than 40 countries around the world.

Recommended Content:

Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch | Global Emerging Infections Surveillance | Bug-Borne Illnesses
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 46

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.