Tick Testing & Information
Prevent Tick Bites
While enjoying the natural beauty of Eastham, one should be careful of ticks. General precautions should be taken to avoid tick bites. Common ways to prevent tick bites are:
- Use insect repellents with DEET or permethrin when outdoors, and pretreated clothing.
- Wear long-sleeve clothing, pants, and socks tucked into boots, even in summer.
- Be extra vigilant during April to late October. Ticks are at the greatest numbers.
- Stay on trails when walking or hiking to avoid wooded areas where ticks live.
- Talk to your vet about tick control options (collars, repellents) for pets.
- Carefully examine yourself and pets after being outdoors. Remove ticks if you can with tweezers and magnifying glass. Pay special attention to the folds in your skin. If you do find a tick, make sure to remove it properly. Watch video instructions.
It is recommended that you get the tick tested if you are bitten. The testing can tell if common tick-borne diseases are present. Tick Testing information can be found here.
Lyme disease is caused by bacteria (germs) that are spread by tiny, infected black-legged (deer) ticks. Both people and animals can have Lyme disease.
Lyme disease is spread by the bite of an infected black-legged tick. The tick usually must be attached to a person for at least 24 hours before it can spread the germ. Black-legged ticks in Massachusetts can also carry the germs that cause babesiosis and human granulocytic anaplasmosis). These ticks are capable of spreading more than one type of germ in a single bite.
Symptoms of early Lyme disease, described below, usually begin to appear from 3 to 30 days after being bitten by an infected tick. If untreated, symptoms of late Lyme disease may occur from weeks to years after the initial infection.
Early stage (days to weeks): The most common early symptom is a rash (erythema migrans) where the tick was attached. It often, but not always, starts as a small red area that spreads outward, clearing up in the center so it looks like a donut. Flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headache, stiff neck, sore and aching muscles and joints, fatigue and swollen glands may also occur. Even though these symptoms may go away by themselves, without medical treatment, some people will get the rash again in other places on their bodies, and many will experience more serious problems. Treatment during the early stage prevents later, more serious problems.
Later stages (weeks to years): If untreated, people with Lyme disease can develop late-stage symptoms even if they never had a rash. The joints, nervous system and heart are most commonly affected.
- About 60% of people with untreated Lyme disease get arthritis in their knees, elbows and/or wrists. The arthritis can move from joint to joint and become chronic.
- Many people who don’t get treatment develop nervous system problems. These problems include meningitis (an inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord), facial weakness (Bell’s palsy) or other problems with nerves of the head, and weakness or pain (or both) in the hands, arms, feet and/or legs. These symptoms can last for months, often shifting between mild and severe.
- The heart also can be affected in Lyme disease, with slowing down of the heart rate and fainting. The effect on the heart can be early or late.
People who are diagnosed with Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics. Prompt treatment during the early stage of the disease prevents later, more serious problems.
1 all information from https://www.mass.gov/service-details/lyme-disease
- - Caused by a tick parasite that infects red blood cells.
- - Infected ticks most commonly found in Mass. coastal areas (Cape Cod).
- - The tick spreads the germ after being attached for 48 to 56 hours.
- - Symptoms appear 1 to 8 weeks after a tick bite(you may have no symptoms also).
- - You may have fever, chills, joint aches, headache, fatigue and other symptoms. As always, contact a health care provider to investigate your symptoms.
HUMAN GRANULOCYTIC ANAPLASMOSIS(HGA).
- Caused by bacteria that attack the white blood cells(granulocytes).
- In Massachusetts, HGA is now found in the entire state.
- HGA bacteria are spread by black legged deer ticks attached 12 to 24 hours.
- Symptoms appear 7 to 14 days after a bite, including headache, fever, chills, fatigue or muscle aches.
- Contact a healthcare provider if you have symptoms.
Powassan virus causes a rare, but often serious disease, and is spread by the bite of tiny, infected black-legged (deer) ticks. There are two types of Powassan virus in the United States. One type is found in ticks that normally feed on woodchucks (groundhogs); the second type is carried by black-legged ticks, the same ticks that can also carry the germs that cause Lyme disease, babesiosis and anaplasmosis.
Symptoms of disease usually begin between one week and one month after the bite of an infected tick.
Although most people who are exposed to Powassan virus likely never feel ill, others may become severely ill with meningitis (inflammation of the covering of the brain and spinal cord) or encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). Signs and symptoms include fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, loss of coordination, speech difficulties and seizures. Approximately 10% of people with this severe form of the disease will die and survivors may have long-term health problems.
There is no specific treatment once infection with Powassan virus has occurred. Treatment consists of supportive care, rest and fluids to prevent dehydration.
1 Information from https://www.mass.gov/service-details/powassan-virus
Tularemia is a disease caused by the bacteria (germ) Francisella tularensis. It is a disease that occurs in both animals and humans.
It can be spread to people in different ways. Humans may get it from an infected tick. In Massachusetts, the type of tick most likely to carry the tularemia germ is the common dog tick, also called the wood tick. People can also get it after touching, handling or eating an infected animal, having contact with water or soil that has been contaminated by an infected animal or being bitten by an infected animal.
Animals most likely to be infected include rabbits and rodents such as voles, squirrels, muskrats and beavers. Although uncommon in other places, the most common source of infection on Martha’s Vineyard is breathing in contaminated particles during outdoor landscaping activities.
Dogs and cats can also get tularemia from ticks, an infected animal or contaminated soil or water. In extremely rare cases, sick pets have exposed their owners or veterinary staff caring for the animal.
Symptoms will be different depending on how the germs get into your body. If the germs are spread by an infected tick bite or by touching an infected animal, symptoms may include a skin sore (ulcer) and/or swollen glands (lymph nodes).
Eating food or drinking water that has been contaminated with the germs may cause throat or intestinal pain, diarrhea and vomiting. Breathing in the germs will cause fever and a pneumonia-like illness with coughing, chest pain and/or shortness of breath.
Symptoms usually appear between 3 and 5 days after an exposure. It can take as long as 21 days.
It can be treated with antibiotics. It is important to see your doctor right away if you think you may have tularemia.
1 Information from https://www.mass.gov/service-details/tularemia
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever1
Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) is a disease caused by the bacteria (germ) Rickettsia rickettsii.
In the Northeast, RMSF is spread by the bite of an infected dog tick, also called the eastern wood tick. The longer a tick remains attached and feeding, the higher the likelihood that it may spread the bacteria. However, unlike for other tick-borne diseases, the germ that causes RMSF often spreads within 24 hours of the tick attaching.
Symptoms usually start to appear about 7 days after the bite of an infected tick, but can begin anywhere between 3 and 14 days.
Symptoms usually begin with a sudden onset of fever and severe headache, and may also include deep muscle pain, nausea and vomiting, and less frequently stomach pain and cough. Most people develop a rash on their arms and legs about 3 to 5 days after the fever starts. This rash often spreads to the palms, soles, and over the rest of the body.
RMSF can be treated with antibiotics; however, serious complications including death can occur if the disease is not recognized and treated early.