Usually tick bites are harmless and do not cause any noticeable symptoms. However, in some people, ticks can cause severe allergic reactions. Some types of ticks even pass on diseases to humans and their pets when bitten and can be fatal if not treated in time. Lyme disease is perhaps one of the most commonly caused and dangerous tick-borne diseases. So are tick bites deadly? In many cases, yes, they can very well be deadly. Let us examine what happens when you get a tick bite and how it can become deadly.
Are Tick Bites Deadly?
There are more than 800 species of ticks that are commonly found. Related to spiders, these creatures are generally found in damp places in forests, overgrown grasses and bushes, piles of leaves, and can even sit on low growing plants. Ticks are generally not found in family gardens that are well maintained or in town parks. The onset of summer usually brings these pests out as people start to venture outdoors more and more. This also results in a rise of tick-borne diseases. Ticks are attracted to humans and also pets and can be harmful. Let us look at the most frequently asked question, are tick bites deadly?
While tick bites are dangerous, it is estimated that only 1% of patients actually die from a disease resulting from a tick bite.
The onset of the summer season means that more people venture into the wilderness and in general they stay outdoors. This increases the occurrence of tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease. The occurrence of Lyme disease has been rapidly increasing in the summers and if not diagnosed in time, the infection has the capability to infect the heart, joints, and even the nervous system.
A type of tick, known as wood ticks, can pass on several types of germs to humans, including a bacteria known as Borrelia burgdorferi and a virus known as tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV).
New research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has shown that almost 50% of ticks are infected with the bacteria known as Borrelia burgdorferi, which causes Lyme disease in people. It is possible to treat Lyme disease with antibiotics. However, ticks that carry the TBEV virus are known to be more dangerous, though these ticks are generally found only in certain specialized areas and only about 1% of ticks actually are known to carry this virus. Since 2005, the cases of this condition has increased drastically. There is, nevertheless, an effective vaccine available for this condition. In short, the answer to the question, are tick bites deadly, is yes, but if diagnosed and treated in time, the chances of cure are high.
Symptoms of Tick Bites
Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) manifests in two phases. The first phase, approximately 7 to 14 days after getting a tick bite, people start showing symptoms similar to flu, such as fever, headaches, fatigue, and painful joints. These symptoms tend to disappear after a couple of days and people generally do not associate these symptoms with tick bite. For the majority of patients, the illness becomes over at this phase itself and they also become immune for the rest of their life once they have been exposed to the virus at this stage.
However, for 15% of patients, the disease does not end here and following a symptom-free phase for some days, the second phase of the disease begins, which attacks the central nervous system. This is the real phase that proves that tick bites are deadly and must be treated at once.
The second phase of the disease has symptoms that include bad headaches, dizziness, lack of concentration, aversion to light, difficulties of sight and speech, and difficulty in walking. These symptoms can last for a couple of weeks to even some months. In serious cases, many patients also experience a paralysis of legs, arms, and the facial nerves, which may even lead to permanent disabilities.
It has been estimated that nearly 1% of patients die from the second phase of tick-borne encephalitis. There is no special treatment for TBE and the treatment revolves around managing the symptoms.
Tick Bites – Early Detection & Prevention
Experts believe that as tick bite infection can be deadly, an early detection of a tick bite is key to not suffering from any serious condition. Even if you are not able to find the tick immediately once exposed, it still takes around 48 hours to contract Lyme disease and around a week to two weeks for TBE to become noticeable. If you note any early signs and symptoms of tick bites, get yourself checked from your physician.
It is important that you follow certain safety rules while being outdoors during the summertime, even if you are in your own backyard or garden. It is also recommended that you use a bug repellant or a mosquito repellent to keep yourself safe. Not leaving a lot of skin exposed and being careful if you are climbing or playing around in the bushes are basic safety rules that will help keep you safe.
However, if you notice any of the above symptoms, it is best to seek medical advice to prevent complications of deadly tick bites.
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