There’s one seasonal nuisance that’s paired with longer hours of sunshine, warm weather and spending more time outdoors: Ticks. And, unfortunately, along with the ticks comes tick borne diseases.
Ticks can populate as early as April or as late as November, said Dr. Joseph Gross, an infectious disease specialist at Beverly Hospital. Gross participated in a recent Lahey Health Facebook Live interview where he said ticks only need a few days of warm weather to come out and repopulate.
Ticks and people go hand-in-hand when it comes to illness.
“In order to have tick bites, you need to have people outdoors to be bitten,” Dr. Gross said.
While Lyme disease has garnered much of the public’s attention when it comes to tick-borne diseases – and rightfully so because it can have serious long-term consequences – there are other tick borne diseases you should watch out for.
In fact, every couple years there’s a new illness or bacteria that’s transmitted by the little vectors.
“There are a surprisingly large number of infections humans can get from ticks,” Dr. Gross said, adding at least 7 or 8 illnesses are passed by the bugs.
Other than Lyme, there are two main tick borne diseases in the Northeast called babesiosis and anaplasmosis, both spread by the deer tick, also called the black-legged tick. But Lyme is still the most common of the tick borne diseases.
While all three illnesses are spread by the same tick, Dr. Gross said babesiosis and anaplasmosis give people more flu-like symptoms, think fever and fatigue, for a short period of time.
“The best way to put it is they just make people sick,” he said.
Still, the spleen controls a babesiosis infection, so people who have damage to this organ may experience worse symptoms and a more severe form of the disease.
Lyme can cause these flu-like symptoms, too, but it’s known for affecting multiple organ systems and it can – not always, but in some instances — cause long-term illness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated there were more than 22,000 cases of Lyme in 2010.
Dr. Gross said most of these tick-borne infections are treated with antibiotic therapy and respond well.
To watch the full interview, visit Beverly Hospital’s Facebook page.