Every year new diseases are posing a threat to human health. Some may be airborne diseases while some may be due to an individual’s lifestyle.
Recently, there is evidence that a tick, colloquially known as the lone star tick, has been transmitting dangerous diseases.
The lone star tick, scientifically known as Amblyomma americanum, feed on the blood of both domesticated and wild animals. These ticks also feed on human blood. Although recent research has confirmed that they are not responsible for Lyme disease, these ticks can transmit various other pathogens to animals and humans – those pathogens that cause diseases like ehrlichiosis, rickettsiosis, tularemia, and certain allergies.
Let’s know more about the disease-causing tick in detail.
Important Facts About The Lone Star Tick At A Glance
Habitat: The lone star tick is widely distributed across the eastern, southeastern, and midwestern states of U.S.A. These cannot survive long exposures to sunlight. Therefore, they are usually found in shaded, woody areas with low vegetation.
Life cycle: Lone star ticks are three-host ticks. They feed on different hosts during their larval, nymphal, and adult stages. Typically, the life cycle of a lone star lasts for 2 years under favorable natural conditions. The life cycle begins when the female tick falls off the host and after several days lays more than 5000 eggs.
Eggs: The eggs are glossy, brown, and appear as oval structures. Because the females lay the eggs together, they are usually found in a large mass. The female ticks lay eggs usually during spring, summer, and autumn.
Larvae: The ticks in their larval stage are known as “seed ticks” because of their small size and have six legs. They can live up to six months if the climatic conditions, including temperature and humidity, are favorable.
Nymphs: Ticks in their nymphal stage have eight legs and can survive up to six months without feeding on the blood of a host.
Adults: Adult ticks have eight legs and can survive 8 months to 2 years without feeding if the climatic conditions are favorable.
Hosts: The lone star tick is not specific when it comes to its host. It feeds on both animals and human beings. These ticks can be found on domesticated animals like cattle, dogs, and horses; ground-dwelling birds like quail and wild turkeys; and small and large wild mammals like squirrels, hares, white-tailed deer, and coyotes.
Diseases Caused By The Lone Star Tick
The following are the diseases caused by the lone star tick on both humans as well as animals.1
1. Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness – STARI
STARI, also known as Masters Disease, is suspected to be transmitted by the lone star tick. The symptoms of this disease begin to show within 7 days after the tick bite. The following are the symptoms of the disease.
- A rash about 3 inches or more from the bite location
- Joint and muscle pain
Ehrlichiosis is a disease caused by a group of bacteria that reside on the host’s body. The disease can cause health issues to both humans and animals. The symptoms of the infection usually develop 1–2 weeks after being bitten by the tick. The following are the common symptoms seen with the disease.2
- Muscle pain
- Nausea / Vomiting / Diarrhea
- Conjunctival injection (red eyes)
Rickettsiosis is a disease caused by an infection of one of the several bacteria belonging to the Rickettsia genus. The following are the common signs of the infections.3
- A small, black, hard sore at the bite site
- Muscle ache
- Swollen lymph glands
This is a disease caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis. This disease usually affects mammals including humans. The signs and symptoms of this disease vary depending on how the bacteria entered the body. However, all forms of the disease are associated with fever, which can be as high as 104°F.4 Some of the common forms of tularemia and the symptoms are listed below.
- Ulceroglandular: The most common form of the disease. The common symptom is the presence of a skin ulcer at the site where the bacteria entered. There may also be swelling of regional lymph nodes, especially in the armpit or groin.
- Glandular: These have similar symptoms as that of ulceroglandular, without the skin ulcer.
- Oculoglandular: This infects the eye. Symptoms include irritation and inflammation of the eye and swelling of lymph glands in front of the ear.
- Oropharyngeal: Sore throat, mouth ulcers, tonsillitis, and swelling of lymph glands in the neck are some of the symptoms of this form of tularemia.
- Pneumonic: This is the most severe form of the disease. Symptoms include cough, chest pain, and difficulty breathing.
- Typhoidal: This form is characterized by a combination of general symptoms.
5. Red Meat Allergy
Recent studies have also found another life-threatening allergy caused by the lone star tick.5
When the lone star tick bites a human, a sugar known as the alpha gal sugar is transmitted. The human body recognizes this sugar as a foreign body and starts producing antibodies to fight it. Since this sugar is not produced in the body, the body may become allergic to it.
How does this cause you to be allergic to red meat? Unfortunately, alpha gal sugars are present in certain food that you have almost every day. These foods include red meat, gelatin, and dairy products. Once you acquire this allergy, it may trigger when you have any of these foods mentioned. Common symptoms of the allergy are as follows:
- Shortness of breath
- Swelling of the face and hands
- Low blood pressure
Steps To Protect Yourself Against Ticks
Prevention is always better than cure. So, follow these steps to keep yourself and your family members safe from any tick infection.6
- While hiking, avoid areas with high grass and leaf litter.
- Use products that contain permethrin to treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks, and tents.
- If you own a pet, treat them for ticks. Dogs, in particular, are prone to tick infections and there are possibilities that they bring them home. Tick collars, sprays, shampoos, or monthly “top spot” medications can prevent your dog from tick infections.
- Shower immediately after you reach home and look out for ticks before they bite you and cause an infection. You can use a hand-held or full-length mirror to examine all parts of your body.
- You can kill ticks on clothes by tumble drying them on high heat for 10 minutes. If the clothes are damp, more time may be required to dry them completely.
|↑1||Featured Creatures. University of Florida.|
|↑2||Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑3||Rickettsial infections – including symptoms, treatment and prevention. South Australia (SA) Health.|
|↑4||Signs & Symptoms. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑5||Wolver, Susan E., Diane R. Sun, Scott P. Commins, and Lawrence B. Schwartz. “A peculiar cause of anaphylaxis: no more steak?.” Journal of general internal medicine 28, no. 2 (2013): 322-325.|
|↑6||Lyme and other tickborne diseases. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|