Just when you thought Lyme disease was the only thing you had to worry about when it came to ticks, along comes a study warning of other problems.
Looks like those annoying little insects carry a few more diseases people need to be concerned about, according to recent research.
A Bard College study of thousands of ticks in the Duchess County area of New York state revealed that along with carrying the agent for Lyme disease (30 percent), at least two other disease-related pathogens or bacteria were discovered.
"People in tick-infested parts of the United States such as the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and the Upper Midwest, are vulnerable to being exposed to two or three diseases from a single tick bite," explained Felicia Kessing, co-author of the study and a Bard College biology professor. "That means health care professionals and the public need to be particularly alert to the possibility of multiple infections coming from the same tick bite."
The two additional infection agents found were babesiosis, a malaria-like parasitic disease, and the third pathogen discovered in the ticks, rated by researchers as "newly emerging," was not yet named but claimed to cause anaplasmosis in humans, a condition that can include fever, severe headaches, malaise, muscle pains, and chills.
The ticks in the Bard College study were of the blacklegged variety commonly referred to as "deer ticks," but this particular tick can also acquire pathogens from mice and chipmunks.
With tick season in full swing, officials with the Department of Health are warning U.S. residents to be aware of tick bites and to take preventative measures such as using insect repellent containing low concentrations of DEET.
When involved in outdoor activities, they are also suggesting wearing light-colored clothing to more easily spot the insect, making sure you tuck pant legs into socks or boots, wearing longer sleeves and hats, and walking in the center of trails to avoid tall grass and bushes where ticks are typically found.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a page on its website that covers tips on removing any ticks found attached to the skin.
Health officials are also warning residents with pets to be particularly wary of ticks which can bite their pets and also be carried into homes. Ellwood Animal Hospital veterinarian Laura Waterbury, in Elwood City, Pa., claims preventative medications are the best way to keep ticks off family pets, and she suggests daily checks after pets have been outdoors.
"There are numerous options for pets to prevent ticks," Waterbury explained. "We have oral pills and topical creams."
Waterbury should know, as Pennsylvania ranked first in the U.S. for the number of confirmed cases of Lyme disease last year with more than 4,000 cases on record.