​Are There Disease Carrying Ticks In Florida

​Are There Disease Carrying Ticks In Florida

Tick warning sign
Tick warning sign

In most of the more northern climates, ticks are generally only a concern in spring and summer, though in Florida, ticks are common all year around. The ticks in Florida tend to be more dangerous in the Spring and early parts of summer, as the bites during this stage tend to be from tick nymphs.

The nymphs are much smaller and easier to miss, and this results in the ticks being able to remain attached to the body for longer periods of time. This increased amount of time attached to the body, also increases the likelihood that tick-borne diseases will be transmitted.

During regular doctor checkups, and during any medical emergencies and consultations with medical specialists, it should be noted if the patient has been actively engaged in areas known to be rife with ticks. Tick-borne diseases may not always be at the forefront of a conversation, and this will help to ensure that the doctors also take these diseases into consideration during their diagnoses.

​What are the Most Common Ticks in Florida?

What Are The Most Common Ticks In Florida?

  • American Dog Ticks

  • Argasid Ticks

  • Blacklegged Ticks

  • Bont Ticks

  • Gulf Coast Ticks

  • Lone Star Ticks

The American Dog Ticks are more properly known as dermacentor variabilis, and the nymph stage extends from January through March, with adults being prevalent from March through September, though they may live longer in Florida. The American Dog Ticks are primarily known for transmitting tularemia, rocky mountain spotted fever, or other similar types of spotted fever. They tend to grow in fields where cattle and small rodents are in abundance. They also prefer to habitate along the edge of trails, roads or other paths where it is commonly believed that the scent of passing animals serves to attract them.

The Argasid Ticks or “Soft Ticks” are part of the Argasidae family. The nymph stage and adulthood may vary throughout the year as these ticks prefer to live indoors, primarily in poorly constructed housing typical in rural areas or inner cities, or in animal shelters or other locations where animals, including rats may be plentiful. They are capable of spreading Ehrlichiosis/Anaplasmosis and STARI or Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness.

Most ticks are easily avoided, but some, like people, prefer living indoors and can be more challenging to avoid.
Most ticks are easily avoided, but some, like people, prefer living indoors and can be more challenging to avoid.

The Blacklegged Ticks are also known as “deer ticks” and correctly classified as ixodes scapularis. These ticks thrive due to the lack of cold or severe winters in Florida. The nymph stage runs from April through to August, with adults commonly found all the way from September through to May. The blacklegged ticks are capable of transmitting both Lyme disease and babesiosis. The blacklegged ticks are generally found in wooded areas such as those surrounding the everglades, where their preferred host is the deer, cattle, and any passing human.

The Bont Ticks are actually the species identified as amblyomma variegatum and not actually native to Florida, but rather, an imported variety of tick settling here from its Caribbean home. They are not currently present in Florida in numbers sufficient to have set breeding or growth seasons, though they are particularly nasty when they do transmit disease. The Bont ticks can transmit African Tick-bite fever, heartwater, and dermatophilosis.

The Gulf Coast Ticks are amblyomma maculatum, and exist in their nymph stage from February until August, and as adults from March through to November. The gulf coast ticks are primarily transmitters of Rickettsia parkeri but are also creating additional medical concerns based on their ability to transmit numerous pathogens dangerous to both animals and humans. While the gulf coast ticks can be found throughout the state, they tend to have larger and denser populations throughout South Florida in particular.

The Lone Star Ticks are properly categorized as amblyomma americanum and are carriers of Ehrlichiosis/Anaplasmosis and STARI or Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness. The nymph stage of growth extends from February all the way through to October, with adults being readily found between April and August. Like other types of ticks in the amblyomma genus, these ticks are capable of carrying numerous pathogens that can also allow them to transmit diseases not normally associated with Florida ticks or tick bites. Their preferred habitat is second growth forest conducive to deer populations, cattle and humans.

​What are the Most Common Tick-Borne Illnesses in Florida?

What Are The Most Common Tick-Borne Diseases In Florida?

  • African Tick-Bite Fever

  • Anaplasmosis and Ehrlichiosis

  • Babesiosis

  • Dermatophilosis

  • Heartwater

  • Lyme Disease

  • Rocky Mountain (and other variations of) Spotted Fever

  • Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness or STARI

  • Tularemia

Most of the tick-borne diseases are not overly contagious, and some are extremely rare. However, they do present a very real threat and can potentially be life threatening. While most of these diseases are not highly contagious or easily contracted, it is important to remain aware of any potential symptoms that may occur, especially within the first couple of weeks after being in a tick-infested area.

Some tick borne illnesses are dangerous because of the delay in symptoms appearing.
Some tick borne illnesses are dangerous because of the delay in symptoms appearing.

​What is African Tick-Bite Fever?

The African tick-bite fever is the result of getting bitten by a tick infected with the rickettsia africae bacterium and injecting the bacterium into the body. Many people will not suffer any symptoms, but people who are new to the disease may be more prone to suffering as a result. This is especially true in places like Florida where many people not native to the area have chosen to move and live there.

Symptoms of the African tick-bite fever will generally be a sore around the area of the original bite, often with a dark red center. Symptoms may also be comprised of an accompanying rash or irritation surrounding the bite, muscle pain, headaches and fever. Joint inflammation may also occur in some extreme cases. Symptoms aside from the bite marks, generally do not begin showing up for a period of 4 to 10 days from the time of infection.

​What are Anaplasmosis and Ehrlichiosis?

Anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis are technically different, but virtually identical at the same time. Anaplasmosis is the result of infection with the bacterium Anaplasma phagocytophilum. Ehrlichiosis can be contracted through infection by different species of ehrlichia bacteria. These bacteria are from the same family, but attack different immune cells in the host, with strikingly similar results.

These types of diseases are classified into distinct types based on the causation or introduction of a rickettsial bacteria in the red blood cells. This disease is related to, but again separate and distinct from the Ricketssia Parkeri listed below.

Symptoms generally do not appear for anywhere between 5 and 14 days, and may include loss of appetite, chills and fever, headache and muscle pains, joint pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. If you notice any of these symptoms within a week or two of being in a tick-infested area, a routine checkup would be advisable.

​What is Babesiosis or Nuttallia?

Many ticks live just off to the sides of roads and paths where humans and animals frequently pass by, offering a comfortable home to the parasitic ticks.
Many ticks live just off to the sides of roads and paths where humans and animals frequently pass by, offering a comfortable home to the parasitic ticks.

Babesiosis may also be referred to as Nuttallia and is actually a disease common to cattle, though passed on to humans through tick bites. It should be noted that this is an infectious disease that is life-threatening to humans, and medical attention should be sought at the earliest possible time. This disease can last weeks or months, and can lead to death if not treated by a medical professional.

Babesiosis is a direct result of infection from Babesia microti, a specific type of Babesia parasite that infects and attacks the red blood cells of the host. Ticks that carry the babesia parasites may also be host to the Lyme bacteria that cause Lyme disease, so checking for either one or both during an exhaustive medical checkup is a good idea for people who have been in areas known to be infested by these tick carriers.

Symptoms of Babesiosis may include jaundice, particularly in the eyes, loss of balance, weakness, dizziness, night sweats, chills and fever, abdominal pain, muscle pain, joint pain and even piroplasmosis resulting in red or black urine streams.

​What is Dermatophilosis?

Dermatophilosis is most commonly found in animals, but can be transmitted to humans through tick bites passing on the dermatophilus congolensis bacteria. While it is not generally life threatening, it should still be checked out during proper medical checkup. Dermatophilosis creates symptoms that include the formation of red pustules on the skin, resulting in red ulcers that may regress and leave permanent scarring, generally on the arms and hands.

​What is Heartwater?

Heartwater is most commonly a disease relegated to livestock, but humans can contract it through tick bites. Heartwater is a result of an infection caused by the bacteria ehrlichia ruminantium. While heartwater generally infects only livestock, human testing has been limited.

There are indications in ongoing research started in 2011 that it may cause encephalitis resulting in death for humans as well. Professional medical care and treatment is highly recommended. Symptoms may include loss of appetite, chills and fever, headache and muscle pains, joint pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

​What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is the result from an infection of the bacteria known as borrelia burgdoferi and medical attention from a certified doctor or other healthcare professional should be immediately sought when symptoms become apparent.

The potential for a severe reaction to Lyme disease is in the ensuing rash known as erythema. If the rash is not properly treated, it can spread to the different joints in the body, and also throughout the nervous system, and ultimately into the heart resulting in death.

​What is Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever?

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is one of many variants of Spotted Fever, but certainly among the most common and regularly diagnosed. The Spotted Fever is a variant of the Typhus fever so professional medical is strongly recommended. The RMSF or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever can last a number of days or even for weeks.

The most common symptoms to the RMSF include fever, headaches, nausea and vomiting, muscle and stomach pain, rashes, and the lack of an appetite. If RMSF is not adequately treated by medical professionals it can lead to kidney failure, neurological deficits, deafness, partial paralysis and inflammation of the brain, heart and lungs. Professional medical care should be pursued as soon as possible if symptoms are noted.

​What is STARI or Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness?

Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness, or STARI is also known as Masters Disease and is a relatively new discovery within the realm of medical science. STARI is an infectious disease closely related to Lyme disease and is exceptionally hazardous in the Southeastern United States, including Florida.

Skin lesions are the most common symptom of Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness and may be accompanied by mild to severe physical fatigue. Additional symptoms may include those common to Lyme Disease with some very minor differences.

However, clinical research suggests that patients who suffer from the skin lesions tend to suffer fewer symptoms more commonly associated with Lyme disease. While the symptoms may be lacking, it still is a good idea to undergo a thorough examination and to ensure that no serious illnesses have been contracted.

​What is Tularemia?

Tularemia is a disease transmitted via ticks and is caused by the bacteria called francisella tularensis. Once again, this tick-borne illness can be deadly, and immediate medical attention is urged at the first sign of symptoms. Tularemia may also commonly be referred to as “rabbit fever” or “deer fly fever” and unlike most illnesses from ticks, can be transmitted via direct contact.

Tularemia may last anywhere from a few days to several months if not properly treated by certified medical professionals. The symptoms will vary depending on the original point of contact, such as by handling a rabbit that has been infected as opposed to being bitten by certain ticks that may be carriers of the harmful pathogens. Some of the symptoms common to the different variation of the tularemia disease include nausea, chills, fever, exhaustion or fatigue, and rashes.

​Are There Ways to Prevent Tick Bites?

How can the risk of ticks be minimized?
How can the risk of ticks be minimized?

There are many different commercial products that will greatly reduce the likelihood of tick bites, and a seemingly equal number of products to keep ticks off of household pets, and subsequently out of the home. These methods for the prevention of tick bites are certainly among the more preferable.

Other options include staying out of areas where ticks may live, though in South Florida, this may severely inhibit the ability to travel or enjoy life to any worthwhile degree, making it a less than popular option. When traveling out in the woods or beaches, trying to remain in the center of paths will help some.

Upon the return home, especially from extended stays in the woods such as for people who may be hunting in the Everglades, or camping in any of the many parks or forests in Florida, a careful inspection of the body should help to identify any potential bites and signal a need to begin looking for any of the symptoms for tick-borne illnesses and disease.

​Why Should I Choose AHCMD in Boca Raton for Treatment of Tick-Borne Diseases?

AHCMD has everything you need to provide immediate and long-term medical care for virtually any disease. From Dermatologists to Neurologists to Medical Specialists in Infectious Diseases, we can make sure that even once bitten, you never have to be shy about getting the proper medical treatment for whatever kind of ticks may bug you.

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