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 | Bug Week: July 27 - August 2 | 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...

Measles Myths: The Measles Can Be Life-Threatening

Video
9/30/2019
Measles Myths: The Measles Can Be Life-Threatening

Measles can be life-threatening, especially for children and among people who have a compromised immune system.

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health | Children's Health | Immunizations | Immunization Healthcare | Vaccine-Preventable Diseases | Measles-Mumps-Rubella

Measles Myths: Hand Washing Alone Won't Prevent Measles

Video
9/23/2019
Measles Myths: Hand Washing Alone Won't Prevent Measles

Hand washing alone will not prevent the spread of measles. Dr. Margaret Ryan, preventive medicine physician, debunks some myths about vaccinations.

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health | Children's Health | Immunizations | Immunization Healthcare | Vaccine-Preventable Diseases | Measles-Mumps-Rubella

Measles Myths: Vaccines Are Safe

Video
9/17/2019
Measles Myths: Vaccines Are Safe

Vaccine components have been rigorously tested for safety. Dr. Margaret Ryan, preventive medicine physician, debunks some myths about vaccinations.

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health | Children's Health | Immunizations | Immunization Healthcare | Vaccine-Preventable Diseases | Measles-Mumps-Rubella

Measles Myths: Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism

Video
9/12/2019
Measles Myths: Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism

Vaccines that prevent measles do not cause autism. Dr. Margaret Ryan, preventive medicine physician, debunks some myths about vaccinations.

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health | Children's Health | Immunizations | Immunization Healthcare | Vaccine-Preventable Diseases | Measles-Mumps-Rubella | Autism Care Demonstration

Prevent to Protect: Analia

Video
8/30/2019
Prevent to Protect: Analia

Cancer left 5-year-old Analia Pages unable to get vaccinated. Her father, Master Sgt. Edward Pages, has to take extra steps to protect her from diseases she’s susceptible to.

Recommended Content:

Immunization Healthcare | Preventive Health | Immunizations

Prevent to Protect: Rosarios

Video
8/30/2019
Prevent to Protect: Rosarios

10-year-old Tatiana Rosario has a weakened immune system as a result of her cancer treatment. Growing up, she and her family made sacrifices to keep her safe from disease.

Recommended Content:

Immunization Healthcare | Preventive Health | Immunizations

Prevent to Protect: Immunization Awareness

Video
8/30/2019
Prevent to Protect: Immunization Awareness

Getting vaccinated not only protects yourself and your family from deadly diseases, but it also saves the lives to those who don’t have the immune system to fend for themselves. The Military Health System shares the stories of families with children who are at risk when others aren’t immunized.

Recommended Content:

Immunization Healthcare | Preventive Health | Immunizations

Prevent to Protect: Barbara and Floriann

Video
8/30/2019
Prevent to Protect: Barbara and Floriann

Barbara’s son Floriann grew up with an immune dysregulation. A Uniformed Services University pathology professor, she’s experienced first hand the importance of vaccines.

Recommended Content:

Immunization Healthcare | Preventive Health | Immunizations

Moments in Military Medicine: Bug Week

Video
7/30/2019
Moments in Military Medicine: Bug Week

Learn about the connection between military medicine and yellow fever in this video

Recommended Content:

Bug-Borne Illnesses | Bug Week: July 27 - August 2

Bug Week: Fleas

Video
7/22/2019
DHA Seal

Fleas aren’t just annoying to cats and dogs, they can carry diseases dangerous to humans too. Follow these tips to protect yourself.

Recommended Content:

Bug-Borne Illnesses | Bug Week: July 27 - August 2

Bug Week: Mosquitoes

Video
7/22/2019
DHA Seal

What's the deadliest animal in the world? Mosquitoes! Besides leaving itchy bites, mosquitoes can also carry potentially deadly illnesses. Take steps to protect yourself.

Recommended Content:

Bug-Borne Illnesses | Bug Week: July 27 - August 2 | Mosquito-Borne Illnesses

Bug Week: Ticks

Video
7/22/2019
DHA Seal

Whether spending time in your backyard or deep in the woods, stay safe from harmful diseases from ticks with the following tips.

Recommended Content:

Bug Week: July 27 - August 2 | Bug-Borne Illnesses | Tick-Borne Illnesses

Kids Talk Medicine: Chikungunya

Video
7/16/2019
Kids Talk Medicine: Chikungunya

Once you learn how to say CHIKUNGUNYA, take a minute to learn what it is!

Recommended Content:

Bug Week: July 27 - August 2

WARNING: BUG WEEK IS COMING!

Video
6/26/2019
WARNING: BUG WEEK IS COMING!

BEE prepared. Bug Week is back July 27th - August 2nd. For more, visit www.health.mil/Bugs

Recommended Content:

Bug Week: July 27 - August 2

TRICARE Preventive Services

Video
1/14/2019
TRICARE Preventive Services

Watch this video to learn more about all the preventive services your TRICARE benefit covers.

Recommended Content:

TRICARE Health Program | Preventive Health
<< < 1 2 > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 2

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.