Diseases that can be Transmitted by Ticks — Minnesota Dept

Diseases that can be Transmitted by Ticks

In Minnesota, there are about a dozen different types of ticks. Not all of them spread disease but it is always best to protect yourself against tick bites. The most common ticks that people come across in Minnesota are the American dog tick (commonly known as the wood tick) and the blacklegged tick (commonly known as the deer tick). The blacklegged tick causes by far the most tickborne diseases in Minnesota. The diseases spread by ticks in Minnesota include:

    Lyme Disease
    Lyme disease, caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, is a potentially serious bacterial infection affecting both humans and animals. It is the most common tickborne disease reported in Minnesota and in the United States. The incidence of Lyme disease in Minnesota has been increasing in recent years. In 2013, a closely related bacteria, Borrelia mayonii, was found to cause an illness similar to Lyme disease (see below for more information on Borrelia mayonii disease).

Anaplasmosis, formerly known as human granulocytic ehrlichiosis (HGE) is a bacterial disease that was first recognized in Minnesota in the early 1990s. It is transmitted to people by blacklegged ticks (deer ticks), the same ticks that transmit Lyme disease. Anaplasmosis is less common than Lyme disease, however.

Babesiosis is a protozoan infection that occurs infrequently in Minnesota. Up to 20 percent of patients diagnosed with Babesiosis also have Lyme disease.

Ehrlichiosis caused by Ehrlichia chaffeensis is found throughout much of south-eastern and south-central United States and is not a common disease in Minnesota at this time, although a small number of cases have been reported. Ehrlichiosis due to Ehrlichia muris subspecies eauclairensis was first reported in 2009. Since then, low numbers of cases have been reported in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Powassan Virus Disease
Powassan virus is a tickborne flavivirus that has been reported in patients from the Upper Midwest and Northeastern states. It was first reported in a Minnesota resident in 2008 with low numbers of cases reported in the state since then.

Borrelia miyamotoiDisease
Borrelia miyamotoi was recently identified in 2011 to cause an illness in humans similar to tickborne relapsing fever. It is distantly related to the bacteria that cause Lyme disease. Small numbers of human cases have been reported to date from the Upper Midwest and Northeastern states.

Borrelia mayoniiDisease
Borrelia mayonii was recently identified in 2013 to cause an illness similar to Lyme disease. To date, this organism has only been found in patients with exposures to blacklegged ticks in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF)
Rocky Mountain spotted fever is extremely rare in Minnesota, but isolated cases have been reported within the state. This disease is transmitted by the American dog tick.

  • Tularemia
    Tularemia is a potentially serious illness that occurs naturally in the United States. It is caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis and can be transmitted by American dog ticks as well biting flies or infected animals. Human cases of tularemia are rarely reported in Minnesota.
  • Tickborne Diseases Affecting Travelers

    Minnesota residents who travel to other countries or certain areas of the United States may become sick with one of the tickborne diseases listed above or other tickborne diseases. Avoidance of tick bites and use of tick repellent are recommended when traveling to potential tick habitat within affected areas. For more information on international travel, visit International Travel & Infectious Disease.

      Tickborne Diseases of the United States
      CDC: a list of known pathogens spread by ticks in the United States.

  • Tickborne Diseases Abroad
    CDC; a list of known pathogens spread by ticks outside of the United States.
  • Spotlight

    Got tick or mosquito questions? Join us in March 2020 for a webinar tailored just for you. Check out our Ticks, Mosquitoes, & Our Health page for registration information.

    Check out our new video series: All About Ticks.

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    9 Tick-Borne Diseases That Can Make You Seriously Sick—and How to Spot Them

    Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and other tick-borne illnesses are more prominent than ever.

    As the weather gets warmer, the bugs are coming out to play—and carrying nasty diseases with them. While mosquitoes and fleas carry their own set of risks, a certain type of blood-sucking bug has been gaining more traction across the country: ticks.

    The number of tick-borne diseases have more than doubled in the last 13 years, according to a 2018 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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    Why the increase? Ticks and the diseases they spread are making their way into new regions. Plus, people are traveling more than ever, boosting the odds of bringing an infection home from another country, where more rare vector-borne diseases may be robust.

    The number of tick-borne diseases have more than doubled in the last 13 years.

    The CDC identifies tick-borne illnesses as a public health threat and admits the problem is widespread and difficult to control. While these diseases occur all over the United States, the Northeast, upper Midwest, and southern parts of the country seem to be particularly vulnerable.

    While not all tick-related infectious diseases are something to lose sleep over, knowing how to spot the symptoms is crucial to early treatment, which typically involves a round of antibiotics or other prescribed medications. Plus, different types of ticks spread different types of illnesses. Here, the ones you should watch out for, their symptoms, and how to protect yourself from a nasty tick bite this summer.

    Lyme disease

    What it is: Lyme disease is an infection caused by bacteria that’s transmitted through the bite of an infected blacklegged tick (also known as a deer tick).

    Symptoms: If left untreated, lyme disease can cause a variety of flu-like symptoms, depending on how long you’ve been infected. This includes fever, chills, headache, fatigue, joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes. Perhaps the most recognizable sign of Lyme is a red bullseye-shaped rash. Symptoms become more severe the longer you go without treatment, leading to shooting pains in your hands and feet, nerve pain, irregular heartbeat, facial palsy, or even inflammation of your brain and spinal cord.

    How common it is: Lyme disease accounted for 82 percent of all tick-borne diseases reported from 2004 to 2016, the CDC report found, rising from 19,804 cases in 2004 to 36,429 cases in 2016. A total of 402,502 cases have been reported in that span of time.

    It’s worth noting that these numbers only include reported cases. The CDC estimates that roughly 300,000 Americans are infected with Lyme each year, which is eight to 10 times higher than the number of cases actually reported. While Lyme is most common in the Northeast and upper Midwest, the disease has been making its way to other parts of the country.

    Anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis

    What it is: Both anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis are infections caused by bacteria that is transmitted through the bite of infected ticks. Anaplasmosis is commonly spread through blacklegged ticks in the Northeast and western blacklegged ticks along the opposite coastline. Ehrlichiosis is spread through the lone star tick and blacklegged ticks.

    Symptoms: Both diseases exhibit similar symptoms, including fever, headache, muscle pain, malaise, chills, stomach pain, nausea, cough, confusion. Sometimes a rash may occur—identified by splotchy red patches or pinpointed dots—but it is more common in ehrlichiosis (especially in children) than anaplasmosis. A rash is still considered rare in both tick illnesses.

    How common it is: Anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis are currently the second most common tick-borne diseases affecting Americans, growing from 875 cases in 2004 to 5,750 in 2016. Nearly 40,000 cases total have been reported during that time frame, the CDC says.

    Rocky Mountain spotted fever

    What it is: Spotted fever rickettsiosis, also known as Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF), is a bacterial disease spread through several species of infected ticks, most notably the American dog tick.

    Symptoms: Early signs of RMSF include fever, headache, nausea and vomiting, stomach pain, muscle pain, and lack of appetite. The most common sign is a rash that usually develops two to four days after infection, the CDC says, which can make RMSF difficult to detect in its earliest stages. The appearance of the rash also varies; some can be red and splotchy, while others look like small dots. RMSF does rapidly progress and can become life-threatening if not treated properly. Because the disease is hard to detect in its earliest stages, the CDC recommends seeing your doctor immediately if you feel sick after being bitten by a tick or hanging out in wooded or high brush areas.

    How common it is: RMSF grew from 1,713 cases in 2004 to 4,269 cases in 2016, with a total of more than 37,000 reported cases during that time frame. RMSF occurs throughout the U.S., but has most commonly been reported in North Carolina, Tennessee, Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma, the CDC says.


    What it is: Babesiosis is caused by microscopic parasites that infect your red blood cells. It’s most commonly transmitted through blacklegged ticks.

    Symptoms: Babesiosis typically doesn’t present many symptoms. In fact, many infected people may feel fine for a while. If symptoms do pop up, they can start within a week after infection, but usually develop weeks, months, or even longer after you’ve been infected. Common signs include fever, chills, sweats, body aches, nausea, or fatigue. Babesiosis can cause hemolytic anemia, a condition in which your red blood cells are destroyed. It can also be life-threatening in people who are older or have a weak immune system and other serious health conditions, like cancer or kidney disease.

    How common it is: In 2004, there were no reported cases of babesiosis. That number grew to 1,910 in 2016. While it has steadily trended upwards, reports of babesiosis did slightly decrease between 2015 and 2016. Most cases have occurred in the Northeast and upper Midwest regions.

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    What it is: Tularemia is caused by a highly infectious bacteria that is transmitted by dog ticks, wood ticks, or lone star ticks.

    Symptoms: There are several types of tularemia, but two of the most common forms associated with tick bites are ulceroglandular and glandular, according to the CDC. In ulceroglandular tularemia, a skin ulcer—a raw, red, or painful sore—will appear where the bacteria entered your body. This leads to swelling in certain glands, typically in your armpit or groin. Glandular tularemia is similar but does not produce an ulcer. Both forms also cause fever, which can be as high as 104 degrees.

    How common it is: Tularemia does not occur as frequently as other tick-borne diseases, but it has been on the rise. Only 134 cases were reported in 2004, which grew to 230 in 2016. More than 2,000 cases were reported in that time frame. Tularemia can occur across the U.S., but tends to be more common in central parts of the country, the CDC states.

    Powassan virus

    What it is: Powassan (POW) virus, which is related to West Nile virus, is transmitted by the bite of an infected tick and cannot be spread directly from person to person.

    Symptoms: People get sick from one week to a month after infection, but many do not develop any symptoms. Common signs include fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, loss of coordination, difficulty speaking, and seizures. POW virus is a serious disease and can cause inflammation of the brain or meningitis, which can lead to serious complications. There is currently no specific medicine designed to treat POW virus disease.

    How common it is: Powassan virus is rare in the U.S. Only one case was reported each year between 2004 and 2006. However, that number jumped to 22 cases in 2016, the highest it has been in 13 years. Most cases have popped up in the Northeast or Great Lakes regions of the U.S.

    Heartland virus

    What it is: The Heartland virus stems from the Phlebovirus, which can be transmitted by mosquitoes, sandflies, and lone star ticks. The CDC does not know if other types of ticks can transmit this disease.

    Symptoms: Most patients report signs of the Heartland virus roughly two weeks after the known tick bite. These symptoms are often similar to those of ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis, and include fever, fatigue, decreased appetite, headache, nausea, and muscle or joint pain. While few patients die from the illness, nearly all end up being hospitalized.

    How common it is: Heartland virus is a rare tick-borne disease, and only 40 cases have been reported in midwestern and southern states since September 2018 to the CDC, notably between May and September.

    Tick-borne relapsing fever

    What it is: Can you imagine dealing with constant flu-like symptoms? Tick-borne relapsing fever (TBRF) causes a similar scenario, due to a bite of infected “soft ticks,” which differ from the common hard ticks on this list.

    Soft ticks bite and feed quickly, attaching for less than 30 minutes while causing no pain. They are typically found in rodent burrows, rather than grassy or brushy areas, so humans can fall victim to them while sleeping in rodent-infested cabins, the CDC says.

    Symptoms: It may take up to a week to develop symptoms of TBRF after a soft tick bite. The signs include a high fever, headache, and muscle or joint pain. The kicker? The symptoms reoccur in a pattern when left untreated, starting with three days of fever, seven days without, three days again, seven without again, and so on.

    How common it is: While TBRF is rare, it’s not nonexistent, especially in mountainous areas of the U.S., particularly Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, Colorado, and even parts of Texas.

    A note on red meat allergy (alpha-gal allergy)

    What it is: While not technically classified as a disease, a bite from a lone star tick can cause an allergic reaction to red meat. How? These critters transfer a sugar called alpha-gal into your system, which is found in red meat—like beef, pork, and lamb—but not in humans. Because the sugar travels through your blood, your immune system goes haywire and releases antibodies. Once you try to eat red meat again, your body pumps out histamine in reaction to the sugar, spurring an allergic reaction.

    Symptoms: If you have the alpha-gal allergy, you will experience symptoms similar to other severe food allergies, like itching, swelling of the throat, lips, and tongue, weakness, nausea, vomiting, headaches, skin rash, and even passing out due to anaphylaxis (difficulty breathing). Unlike typical allergic reactions to food, which tend to be immediate, symptoms may take hours to appear, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI).

    How common it is: It’s hard to tell, since meat allergies themselves aren’t very common. However, one preliminary study presented at the 2018 AAAAI and World Allergy Organization Joint Congress found that 40 percent of 222 anaphylaxis cases had a definitive trigger—and the most common was alpha-gal.

    How to protect yourself against tick bites

    Fear of ticks shouldn’t stop you from enjoying your summer. The CDC says there are few things you can do protect yourself from ticks (as well as mosquitoes and fleas) once outdoor season goes full swing:

    • Get rid of ticks from your yard and home by mowing grass frequently, laying down tick control tubes, and treating with insecticide if necessary.
    • Use a tick repellent that contains at least 20 percent DEET, picaridin, or IR3535.
    • Cover up! Opt for long-sleeved shirts and long pants if you will be in wooded or grassy areas.
    • Treat your clothing, gear, and tents with a product that contains at least 0.5 percent permethrin, like this one from Sawyer Premium Permethrin Clothing Insect Repellent.
    • Always do a full body check after you’ve spent time outdoors and shower as soon as you possibly can.
    • Tumble dry your dry clothes on high heat for 10 minutes to kill any ticks you bring inside with you. (If your clothes require washing, use hot water and tumble dry on high for an hour.)
    • Check for and remove ticks from your pets daily.
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    If you do happen to wind up with a bite (these tick bite pictures can help you identify one), make sure you remove the tick properly with a pair of fine-tipped tweezers.


    Fleas, Ticks & Your Pet

    Fleas are probably the most common ectoparasite (external parasite) of dogs and cats worldwide. In addition to just being a nuisance, fleas are responsible for flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) in dogs and cats, which is estimated to account for over 50 percent of all the dermatological cases reported to veterinarians.

    Ticks are also ectoparasites. Ticks are important vectors of a number of diseases, including Lyme disease. Ticks are second only to mosquitoes as vectors of human disease, both infectious and toxic. Control and prevention of ticks is extremely important in reducing the risk of disease associated with ticks.

    Year-round prevention

    Parasites can infect your pet any time of year. While external parasites, such as fleas and ticks, may be less of a problem during certain times of the year, depending on where you live, internal parasites (worms) can be present year-round. That’s why it’s important to consult with your veterinarian to implement a yearround parasite control program.

    Common questions about fleas and ticks

    Why should I control parasites for my pet year-round?

    Due to the large number of internal and external parasites and the high risk of pet infection, controlling parasites year-round is the most reliable way to ensure the highest level of health for your pet and well-being of your family. Year-round prevention is the most effective way to control cat and dog parasites and the diseases they can carry. People think their pets are safe during the colder months, but pets are susceptible to flea and tick infections at all times of the year. And regardless of the weather, many of these pests can even survive in your home – in carpeting, on furniture and in the bedroom.

    Do fleas on my pet present a health risk to my family?

    Yes. Fleas can carry and transmit several potential illnesses of importance to humans, including typhus and plague, and can transmit “cat scratch disease” (infection with Bartonella) among cats who can then spread the disease to humans. Additionally, fleas serve as an intermediate host for tapeworms, which can infect your pet and occasionally humans.

    What human-health problems are associated with ticks?

    Ticks transmit a large number of diseases in North America. These diseases include Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, relapsing fever, ehrlichiosis, tularemia and tick paralysis. It is important for the health of your pet, as well as the safety of your family, to include ticks in your pet’s year-round parasite control program.

    What if my cat never goes outside?

    Indoor cats have less chance of acquiring fleas and ticks, but they should be regularly checked, just in case. Other pets and/or family members can be hosts for fleas and ticks (on pant cuffs or socks) and bring them home to your indoor cat.

    Tips to protect your family and your pet.

    1. Wash your hands well after contact with an animal.
    2. Do not allow children to put dirt in their mouths.
    3. Pick up dog and cat waste from your yard daily, especially in areas where both children and animals play.
    4. Cover home sandboxes to protect them from fecal contamination.
    5. Have your pet tested regularly (at least once a year) for parasites by a veterinarian and administer year-round preventive medications to control internal parasites that present a risk to your pet and your family.

    What is a vector-borne disease?

    Vector-borne diseases are those transmitted by fleas or ticks (among other parasites) that infest dogs and cats. They can affect pets and people. Ticks can transmit a large number of “vectorborne” diseases in North America including ehrlichiosis, Lyme disease, relapsing fever, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia.

    The Companion Animal Parasite Council

    The Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) is an independent council of veterinarians and other heath care professionals established to create guidelines for the optimal control of internal and external parasites that threaten the health of pets and people. It brings together broad expertise in pararsitology, internal medicine, human health care, public health, veterinary law, private practice and association leadership.


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