Here’s Exactly What You Should Do If You Find a Tick on Your Body
Tick-borne diseases weren't always newsmakers. Just three decades ago, they were only a big issue for people who lived in New England. But now, the blood-sucking bugs are infecting people across the country at rapidly increasing rates. In fact, cases of tick-related illnesses—such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever—have more than doubled in the past 13 years, according to a 2018 report from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“Once a tick crawls on you, it is looking for a safe, warm place to attach,” explains Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann, an entomologist at Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “Some will attach immediately. Once that happens, the transfer of disease organisms can begin. While some diseases take a few hours to a day to transfer, Powassan virus, which is somewhat rare but deadly, can be transmitted within minutes.”
Still, Lyme disease—which is caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi that spreads to humans through a bite from an infected blacklegged tick—accounted for 82 percent of reported tick-borne diseases between 2004 and 2016, per the CDC. Lyme disease's flu-like symptoms, which range from muscle pain to unrelenting fatigue to headaches, can be debilitating.
That’s why having ticks on your radar is so important, especially when you're hiking, camping, or doing other outdoor activities. “The best way to avoid disease is to do a daily tick check and remove ticks as soon as possible,” says Gangloff-Kaufmann.
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