Beyond Lyme Disease: Ticks of All Types
There are several kinds of ticks besides the “deer ticks” that transmit Lyme disease. Here is a helpful overview on what types of ticks to look out for with advice on how to d eal with tick bites.
Lone Star Tick (Amblyomma americanum)
The female Lone Star Tick is identified by the yellow dot on her back. Both genders feed on large mammals, especially deer and cattle, while larvae and nymphs feed on small mammals and ground-dwelling birds. This species transmits ehrlichiosis, southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI), and perhaps Heartland Virus; and may induce allergies to meat. It is expanding its range northward from Texas to Iowa and eastward, now to southern Maine.
Wood Ticks (genus Dermacentor)
American Dog Tick (Great Plains eastward, and California) can transmit tularemia and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. So can the Rocky Mountain Wood Tick (Rockies, Nevada, Pacific Northwest, east of Sierras in California), which also vectors Colorado tick fever. Pacific Coast Tick (California, Oregon) transmits 364D rickettsiosis, a recently-discovered disease. Adult wood ticks feed mostly on medium-sized mammals like raccoons, skunks, cats, and dogs. Larvae and nymphs are usually on rodents.
“Deer Ticks” (genus Ixodes)
These are formally called blacklegged ticks, and they transmit at least two species of bacteria responsible for Lyme disease. Anaplasmosis, babesiosis, and Powassan disease are also vectored by blacklegged ticks. The deer tick life cycle involves multiple hosts. Larvae feed on rodents and birds. Nymphs may graduate to cats, dogs, deer, and other mammals, including people, between April and August when most cases of Lyme are contracted. Adult ticks feed in fall and again the following spring.
Soft Ticks (genus Ornithodoros)
These leathery ticks differ greatly in appearance from the “hard ticks” mentioned above. Some species transmit Tick-borne Relapsing Fever (TBRF) in the western U.S., especially Colorado, Washington, California, and Arizona. Victims have usually slept in rustic cabins and vacation homes with high rodent activity.
What To Do If You Are Bitten
Thoroughly inspect yourself and family members immediately after being outdoors. You can intercept most ticks before they embed. If one has latched on, use sharp-pointed tweezers to grasp the head of the tick as close to the mouthparts as possible. Extract the tick with care, place it in a container, and take it with you to your physician. Let the doctor prescribe treatment from there.