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  • Tom Watson

It's Tick Time in NJ

- and a good time for an update on tick borne illnesses

Spring in NJ and tick cases are rising. We have put together some updated information for NJ residents so they can protect themselves (and their pets) from tick borne illness in 2023.

Ticks are small arachnids (e.g. spiders, mites) that are often found in wooded or grassy areas, and can transmit a range of illnesses to humans and animals through their bites. In New Jersey, there are several tick-borne illnesses that residents should be aware of, including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Powassan virus - and a new one for concern: babesiosis.

Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne illness in New Jersey, with over 4,000 cases reported in 2020. It is caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, which is transmitted to through the bite of an infected blacklegged tick (also known as a deer tick). Symptoms of Lyme disease can include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic rash that looks like a bullseye. If left untreated, Lyme disease can lead to more serious complications, including joint pain and neurological problems.

Rocky Mountain spotted fever is a less common but potentially serious tick-borne illness that is caused by the bacteria Rickettsia rickettsii. It is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected American dog tick, which is found primarily in the eastern and central parts of the United States. Symptoms of Rocky Mountain spotted fever can include fever, headache, rash, and muscle aches, and in severe cases, it can lead to organ failure and death.

Powassan virus is a rare but potentially deadly tick-borne illness that is caused by a virus transmitted through the bite of an infected blacklegged tick or groundhog tick. Symptoms can include fever, headache, vomiting, and seizures, and in severe cases, it can lead to permanent neurological damage or death. There is currently no specific treatment or vaccine for Powassan virus, so prevention is key.

Babesiosis has recently been added to the list of concerns. The CDC has seen an increase in cases of babesiosis in the eastern part of United States. New Jersey saw a 40.9 percent rise in babesiosis cases, from 166 in 2011 to 236 in 2019. It is transmitted by the same tick that transmits Lyme disease – the black-legged tick or deer tick. Symptoms can vary. Some people may not know they have been infected or experience mild flu-like symptoms. Others can get deathly ill. Symptoms can include fever, chills, body aches, fatigue, nausea, and loss of appetite.

Babesiosis and Lyme disease are both serious, but not in the same way. Lyme, if not treated, will affect the nervous system in the brain. Babesiosis does not work in the same way but can be fatal to immunocompromised people or people with a compromised spleen.

Preventing tick bites is the best way to reduce the risk of tick-borne illnesses. This can be done by wearing long sleeves and pants when in wooded or grassy areas, using insect repellent containing DEET, and performing regular tick checks after spending time outdoors. It is also important to remove any ticks as soon as possible, as the longer a tick is attached, the greater the risk of disease transmission.

If you do find a tick on your body, it is important to remove it properly. This can be done by using tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and pulling upward with steady, even pressure. Avoid twisting or jerking the tick, as this can cause the mouthparts to break off and remain in the skin. After removing the tick, clean the bite area with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.

If you develop symptoms of a tick-borne illness, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial for a full recovery, and in some cases, prompt treatment can be lifesaving.

In conclusion, tick-borne illnesses are a serious concern in New Jersey, but with proper prevention and awareness, the risk can be greatly reduced. Remember to take precautions when spending time outdoors, perform regular tick checks, and seek medical attention if you develop symptoms of a tick-borne illness.

Maintaining your property with a reliable pest control service can help you and your family enjoy the NJ outdoors. By working together, we can keep ourselves and our NJ communities safe from tick-borne diseases.

Questions or comments? Contact Tom -

Photo: Photo by Kamaji Ogino

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