Why ticks are so dangerous to humans and pets — Bryan’s student essay

Why Ticks Are So Dangerous To Humans And Pets?

Having grown up on farms in Iowa, I am well-versed in checking yourself for ticks when you get home. It became a habit, a ritual if you will, that signaled the end of a work day, or the beginning of a break. I never really questioned it, and it was never explained to me, as anything more than a nuisance that if left unattended could become a major problem. It was always a pain deterring task, and another expression of “close the door, you’re letting the bugs in”.

As I grew older, I became aware of some of the serious health problems that may arise from a tick bite. Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever are some of the most common diseases ticks may carry.

Lyme disease, from the Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium, is probably the most well-known and has symptoms that may go unnoticed for some time. Infected individuals typically have headaches, pain, fever, and fatigue which may go without connection to the characteristic rash near the bite, in the mind of the individual. Antibiotic treatments typically work in 2-4 weeks, with some individuals feeling pain and fatigue effects well after the conclusion of treatment.

Close-up of Tick attached next to an Australian Shepherd's eye

If symptoms such as joint inflammation and fatigue, headaches and dizziness, or even facial palsies are felt longer than 6 months a Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome (PTLDS) diagnosis may be made. Sometimes these conditions can be life-long, usually from cases that were undiagnosed for an extended period. In these cases, the infection may spread to the heart, joints, and throughout the nervous system causing irreparable damage.

tick crawling on human hand

While most cases in the U.S. tend to be concentrated in the Northeast and Midwest, there are cases every year in almost every state. The CDC reports 30,000 reported cases per year, but recent estimates put the number closer to 300,000 cases per year.

Anaplasmosis, since becoming notifiable in 1999, has seen a steady increase in number of cases per year from 348 in 2000, to a reported 5,762 in 2017 (peak year thus far). Individuals typically experience nausea, severe headaches, fever and chills, and vomiting.

Ehrlichiosis has the same symptoms as anaplasmosis, except that a rash only occurs in 1 in 3 people, whereas rashes from anaplasmosis occur roughly 80% of the time. Ehrlichiosis cases have also risen since first being reported in 2000. There were only 200 cases reported that year, but in 2018 there were 1,799 cases reported.

Babesiosis is very similar to Anaplasmosis for people who are experiencing symptoms, but individuals who are infected often don’t experience symptoms until organ deterioration has occurred. If untreated it can cause anemia and jaundice, as it slowly kills red-blood cells in the host body.

Rocky Mountain spotted fever has the familiar headache, fatigue, and vomiting symptoms. It can also impact blood circulation and could result in amputation or paralysis if left untreated.

All of these potential diseases will result in organ failure and are fatal if left untreated. Prevention however is fairly simple. Keeping your yard free of debris, and the grass short will deter ticks outside. Treating camping gear and boots with permethrin can be a great asset to prevent them from crawling onto yourself. Flea and tick treatments can provide some protection for your pets who live or go outside. At the end of the day the best solution is just to do the old-fashioned check. It’s the safest, cheapest, and easiest way to keep yourself and your animal friends safe, and they will love the bonding experience and attention!

Author: Bryan Sirdoreus

Southern Oregon University


  • All data taken from the CDC website: https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/index.html

Student Scholarships

Every year Thrive Pest Control hosts an essay contest and the reward is a 1-year scholarship at a 4-year university in the United States. This blog post is one of those scholarships.