The Lone Star Tick
While researching deer ticks and Lyme disease for an article I had planned to post, I came across another nasty little tick-The Lone Star tick. Being a Northern Californian, I had never heard much about the dangers associated with this type before because they are primarily found in the southeastern and eastern United States. According to the CDC, Lone Star ticks do not carry Lyme disease but they do carry three other potentially dangerous diseases- Ehrlichiosis, Tularemia, and Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness (STARI). STARI is often referred to as Southern Lyme Disease. Another disturbing fact I came across, was the CDC released a warning in regards to the main drug used to treat these ailments, Doxycycline. Apparently there is quite a shortage of doxycycline (doxycycline hyclate) and tetracycline. Both are used in the treatment of tick-borne illnesses. Dated June 12, 2013 and as of yet have not confirmed any resolve, or perhaps they just haven’t updated their website.
• transmitted by lone star tick bit
• 1-2 week incubation period
• may require intravenous antibiotics, prolonged hospitalization or intensive care.
• fatal if left untreated or treated incorrectly due to misdiagnosis
• Muscle pain
• Red eyes
• Rash (in up to 60% of children, less than 30% of adults)
Ehrlichios is diagnosed based on symptoms, clinical presentation, and later confirmed with specialized laboratory tests. The first line treatment for adults and children of all ages is doxycycline.
Tularemia is transmitted via tick, contaminated water, skin contact with an infected animal (usually rabbits, hares, and rodents) and inhalation of contaminated dust (as when handling dead animals) Because of the various methods of transmission, symptoms may vary and the illness can be mild to life threatening. The only common denominators are high fever and swollen lymph nodes. For further research on the various forms of Tularemia visit the CDC.
Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness aka STARI
• rash similar to the “bulls-eye” associated with Lyme
• rash will appear within 7 days of bite
• muscle pain
STARI is diagnosed based on symptoms and your location when bitten. There isn’t a blood test and the cause is unknown. Because of this it is still unclear if antibiotics are effective, most physicians will prescribe antibiotics because the rash resembles that of Lyme. Researchers are still trying to determine if the antibiotics speed recovery or if it dissipates on its own.
Distinctions between STARI and Lyme disease symptoms
In a study that compared physical findings from STARI patients in Missouri with Lyme disease patients in New York (Wormser et al, 2005), several key differences were noted:
• Patients with STARI were more likely to recall a tick bite than were patients with Lyme disease.
• The time period from tick bite to onset of the skin lesion was shorter among patients with STARI (6 days, on average).
• STARI patients with a “bulls-eye” rash were less likely to have other symptoms than were Lyme disease patients with “bulls-eye”
• STARI patients were less likely to have multiple skin lesions, had lesions that were smaller in size than Lyme disease patients (6-10 cm for STARI vs. 6-28 cm for Lyme disease), and had lesions that were more circular in shape and with more central clearing.
• After antibiotic treatment, STARI patients recovered more rapidly than did Lyme disease patients.
The best treatment for any tick-borne illness is prevention! If you’re going to be in an enviornment that is going to expose you to ticks, take precautions. Wear repellent containing DEET or permethrin. There are supposedly natural alternatives to these two chemicals, but I have not tried any so I honestly don’t know if they work. If you’ve tried any of these alternative methods, please feel free to share in the comments to help inform others. Also, wear long pants, socks, perform tick checks and promptly remove ticks after any outdoor activity.
If you happen to discover a tick, monitor your health closely and consult a physician if you experience a rash, fever, headache, joint or muscle pains, or swollen lymph nodes within 30 days of a tick bite. These can be signs of a number of tick-borne diseases.