The Truth about Ticks

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The Truth about Ticks

Tick Bites in Kentucky

For those who like to skip to the end of the story… in KY your risk of any tick borne disease is pretty low and most infections can be treated with a single dose of antibiotics. The best thing to do is wear insect repellent before you go out. For the whole story, check this out:

A quick internet search for tick borne infections, particularly the Powassan (POW) Virus, will have you thinking this is an epidemic doomed to destroy the whole country. Fortunately history suggests this may not be the virulent killer everyone fears.

The POW Virus has actually been around warmer climates in Europe and Asia for decades. It is thought to have originated in far eastern Russia 70 years ago. While it can cause a serious infection called encephalitis, most patients infected with the Powassan Virus actually will not develop encephalitis.

  • The statistics paint a clearer picture:
  • Most ticks do not carry the POW virus
  • It still takes a significant amount of time for a tick to transmit the infection
  • Many people who do ultimately get the infection have mild symptoms
  • Powassan is rarely diagnosed as a cause of encephalitis, meaning there are many more viruses that are far more common
  • When it does cause encephalitis though it is fatal 10% of the time and 50% of patients develop memory problems or headaches

Now let’s talk about some other tick borne infections:

Of the others, Lyme disease gets the most press. It is a little difficult to diagnose, very difficult to confirm, and can lead to serious complications. The good news is that this rare infection is easy to treat. According to the CDC only 179 cases of Lyme were confirmed in KY from 2005-2015, and most if not all of those infections were contracted in other states.

The other tick borne infections cause relatively mild flu like symptoms and do not have long term complications like Lyme or Powassan. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever can be dangerous but again, it is easily treated with antibiotics and has obvious symptoms. Ticks must feed for hours, in many cases days, in order to transmit infection. That means the likelihood of contracting a tick borne infection before the tick is removed is pretty small.

Like many conditions in medicine a little prevention goes a very long way. Checking your body and your children after outdoor activities is a must, and applying insect repellent goes a very long way. I hope you find this information helpful amongst the hysteria.

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