September 28, 2022
What You Need to Know About Ticks This Summer: New Diseases, Prevention Tips and More

When my husband Scott keeled over in pain on a road trip through Alabama last summer, we assumed food poisoning was the culprit. After all, he’s 47 and we’d had sushi the night before. Three weeks later, when he was admitted to the Nashville VA Medical Center, I started to worry. The months followed in a whirlwind of tests: a colonoscopy, an endoscopy, CT scans, an EKG, blood panels galore and too many doctors’ visits to count. It wasn’t until a casual conversation with a doctor friend that we got a lead on the problem: He thought it might be Alpha-gal syndrome, a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction triggered by the consumption of mammal products. After requesting a test from the VA, the results immediately came back positive. And the likely cause of all of this? A tick bite.

You’ve likely heard of Lyme disease; after all, it’s the most common tick-borne disease (TBD) in the U.S., according to David J. Burrier, UPS Chief Medical Officer at Cleveland Clinic. But equally concerning are Alpha-gal syndrome and Heartland virus—transmitted by the lone star tick. While neither is as widely known as Lyme and Alpha-gal isn’t yet tracked by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), lone star tick infection numbers are growing in the United States, especially in the Southern and Eastern states.

Every year tick-borne diseases (TBDs) like Lyme disease result in as many as 500,000 diagnoses in the United States, the CDC reports. While tick exposure can occur year-round, ticks are most active during warmer months from April to September.

Transferred through the bite of an infected blacklegged (or deer) tick, Lyme disease may trigger a fever, headache, fatigue and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans; it also can lead to long-term lingering side effects if not addressed quickly, Burrier says. If you develop a rash in the weeks following a tick bite, see your doctor.

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