Summer brings sunshine, camping, hiking, and other outdoor activities. Unfortunately, it also means tick season is upon us. Have you ever had the unnerving experience of finding a tick crawling on you or, even worse, using you for a snack? Aside from the general unpleasantness, there exists the underlying worry of a disease carried by these creepy crawlies. Discussing each of the several diseases in detail would take up considerable printing space, so I will discuss one of the most common tick-borne illnesses: Lyme disease.
Not all ticks carry Lyme disease. In our area, only the deer tick transmits the bacterium Borrelia Burgdorferi, which causes the disease. The bacterium resides in the tick’s stomach and is passed onto humans when the tick becomes attached. Tick saliva has a combination of anesthetics and anti-inflammatories that help prevent the unlucky host from noticing they are attached. Fortunately, it takes between 36-72 hours before the bacterium can be passed onto the host. This means that finding a tick attached to you has a very low likelihood of transmitting Lyme disease if it has been there for less than a day. However, most humans are infected through bites by immature ticks called nymphs which can be very hard to see due to their tiny size.