Why ticks are so dangerous to humans and pets — Chelsea’s student essay
Why Ticks Are So Dangerous To Humans And Pets?
Ticks are parasitic arthropods that feed on warm-blooded hosts like pets and humans. Ticks are so dangerous to humans and pets because they pass on infectious diseases that can be permanently debilitating for their victims. Widely distributed throughout the world, ticks can be found on any wild furry animal if you look close enough. A tick bite can easily go unnoticed, giving these creatures opportunities to finish a blood meal without disruption and move on to the next host. Distribution of tick-borne diseases are spreading to different regions of the world that were once unaffected.
When ticks bite, there is an exchange of fluids from the host’s blood and the tick’s saliva. A tick becomes a carrier of a communicable disease during the larval stage when the immature tick feeds on an infected host, usually wild animals like deer. During maturation, an infected tick finds another meal and transmits those pathogens into the bloodstream of its host. The infamous deer tick and lone star tick are key players in this process.
The complications that arise from tick-borne disease can be fatal, which is why ticks, although small in size, pose a large threat for humans and their pets. There are a multitude of tick-borne illnesses that humans and our furry friends are susceptible to. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) list up to sixteen tick-borne illnesses that are prevalent in the United States
In 2018, the CDC received 47,743 reports of tick-borne illnesses. That number may not seem significant compared to our nation’s population, but the number has more than doubled since 2004 with 22,527 reported cases. These numbers are just for human cases; it does not account for pets whom are equally susceptible to the same diseases that humans at risk for.
Lyme Disease is an example of a tick-borne illness that started in the Eastern Plains of the United States and has spread all over North America. Regional diseases that spread out from their known territory make it harder for doctors and veterinarians to identify the risk of contracting a particular tick-borne illness.
With modern medicine, many bacterial illnesses are treatable with antibiotics.However, if an infected tick bite is left untreated, or if treatment is delayed, permanent repercussions can occur. My mother was diagnosed with Lyme Disease during her pregnancy with me in the 1990’s – a time when Lyme Disease was not well understood. A deer-tick latched on to my mother 27 years ago and has ruined her life with permanent neurological complications as a result of the bacteria that causes Lyme Disease, Borrelia burgdorferi. Although my mother no longer has an active infection of Lyme, she experiences Lyme-associated arthralgia (joint pain) that does not resolve with pain medications.
Every warm-blooded animal that enjoys outdoor activities are at higher risk of encountering a hungry tick. Ticks are actively seeking blood meals when they are not latched onto an animal. I myself have witnessed a tick standing on its hind legs at the edge of a leaf reaching out to a fellow hiker walking in front of me on a popular hiking trail. Some people believe that contracting a tick-borne disease is rare and thus do not see the importance of wearing insect repellent and performing body checks when encountering wildlife. My friends once belonged to that group until I told them about my personal experiences with ticks. The lack of awareness gives ticks more opportunities to find unsuspecting hosts to infect, making them more dangerous to humans and pets.
Ultimately, ticks pose a danger to humans and pets because they are vectors for disease. A complete blood-meal for a tick may be at the expense of its host for the long-term. The diseases that ticks carry can be severe if left untreated or goes unidentified. With infections on the rise, it is important for wild-life lovers to be aware of the risks of a tick bite if they choose not to take protective precautions when they interact with nature. Doing so may cost someone their life.