Human beings are often lured into believing that our species is completely safe from catastrophic pandemics and other narratives that support mass extinction. All too often, we end up focusing on things which simply matter less than they should for the sake of propping up a vaccine manufacturer’s financials (think Zika). But catastrophic threats to the human race do exist and this is largely why I run this prepper news website. For more information on pandemics, check out my pandemic survival guide.
Our planetary dominance is not a certainty nor is it guaranteed. This is why we learn to survive the plague. It is why we concern ourselves with massive volcanoes and earthquakes and EMP attacks. Our inner-reason and logic skills are always playing out for us in ways to help us respect our fragility, even if only on a subconscious level. Increasing world populations which can quickly and fluidly travel between continents has increased the odds of a global outbreak that could threaten our very existence to the core.
Most of our potential devastation begins with the animal world. Diseases can be spawned in animals and then infiltrated into the human race where it can have devastating consequences. When parasites, such as ticks, move between animals and humans, the prove to be as dangerous as any threat we have on earth. Yes, ticks, are deadly, and likely even more deadly than we’ve ever assumed. Sure, we all understand that ticks should be avoided, none of us want Lyme disease, however, how many of us really know the true threat level that is ticks? Not many, that’s safe to say.
A tick’s life is divided up into three sections. Inside of each section, the tick feeds off of a mammal, such as an animal, or even a human. This means the lifespan of a tick involves interacting with a different human or animal. When ticks feed on an animal or person, they take with them microbes derived from the blood. Ticks are highly adaptable no matter what the environment, they can thrive as far down as the depths of Antarctica. Their ability to mingle almost anywhere on earth and feed on multiple hosts makes ticks one of the most authentic threats we can know.
Ticks Are Getting Closer To Us Humans
Ticks have the ability to infect the human race with illnesses we don’t even know exist. And they can do so with cunning efficiency. Human interaction with ticks is rising, which might explain the uptick in Lyme disease cases in the northeast. Housing developments are consistently (and some would say savagely) stripping wildlife of more and more land space. This is pushing that wildlife into more and more human real estate. Ticks are adapting by finding food sources in more available humans because they are coming into closer contact with them as they are carried in by animals. Being that ticks have three main feeding host per lifespan on average, the odds that a tick attached to a human has also fed from an animal is relatively high. And that would hint at a human being infected with an animal’s microbe.
Warmer winters can fuel increased exposure to ticks, particularly in places such as the northeast. Ticks are now more mobile than ever and their increased time of impact is leading us into a terrifying new relationship with them.
The Lyme Disease Tick Scenario | Deer Ticks
While ticks are something of a point of contention for campers and hikers, they’ve not been the subject of as much scientific scrutiny as one might assume. Over the course of the past two summers, ticks have gained a higher level of notoriety than ever before due to the increased spread of Lyme disease. In states such as Pennsylvania and New York, doctors are consistently handing out antibiotics to fight potential Lyme disease based only on symptoms. Lyme disease tests are later confirmed, but because timeliness of antibiotic regimes is so important, many people only need cite symptoms and prior activity (such as hiking, or being overly exposed to the outdoors) in order to receive medications.
Lyme disease is an infection that is transferred from a tick to a human being. The tick that bites the human is infected with a bacteria known as, Borrelia burgdorferi. The tick will have likely picked up the infection by biting a mouse or a deer. In the northeast, particularly in places such as Pittsburgh, deer populations have exploded into unmanageable levels. The deer consistently interact with humans, even in the urbanest of areas in the city. This helps spread the ticks to humans. These are ticks that previously fed on deer, hence why they are called a deer tick, and have the bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi strain.
Lyme disease symptoms typically begin with a rash near the spot of the tick’s bite. The rash often appears in the shape of a bullseye target. Fever, chills, headache, and muscle aches are not uncommon side effects of Lyme disease. The longer Lyme disease is left untreated, the more it wreaks havoc on the body. Many people will begin to experience joint pain, severe fatigue, and Bell’s palsy. Memory loss can also be attributed to symptoms of Lyme disease.
A Lyme disease tick is not every tick. The most prominent carrier of Lyme disease in the northeast is the “deer tick,” or the black-legged tick. The west coast has the western black-legged tick which is also a Lyme disease tick. Lyme disease can’t be spread from person to person, Lyme disease relies on ticks to do its dirty work. And ticks are marvelously optimal in doing such. As mentioned, Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics, but the earlier the treatment, the more successful it will be.
Ticks are able to carry a variety of human pathogens. This can include protozoa and viruses. Lyme disease tends to suck up all the attention which means a potentially heavy-handed amount of research is done on that end of the spectrum. This often means other, just as serious issues, are left by the wayside. Tick-borne rickettsiosis, or TBR, is one of those cases. TBR often mimics symptoms of Lyme disease and seeing they are both tick diseases, misdiagnosis is not unusual. TBR is typically treated with doxycycline. Death is rare, but misdiagnosis of TBR definitely increases the odds of it occurring.
Another concerning tick disease is Babesiosis. Babesiosis is caused by the protozoan Babesia and has a strong relationship with malaria. Doctors don’t test often for Babesiosis, so statistics for infections aren’t reliable (and are likely low due to low testing frequency). About 25% of people infected with Babesiosis won’t ever know it, but for others, it can be deadly. We hardly understand the impact that Babesiosis can or will have on the human race, which is terrifying in its own right.
Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, or CCHF, is an untreatable and deadly disease spread by ticks. Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever is on par with the devastation potential of Ebola. When it comes to tick diseases, CCHF is a monster. CCHF is so concerning as a potential catastrophic plague that the World Health Organization has inflated its odds of causing massive human devastation. By doing so, the WHO has increased the amount of funding earmarked for further research into the matter. Worsening the scenario for a CCHF outbreak is the fact that cows and sheep are able to harbor CCHF, which allows the disease to thrive and eventually be carried from animal to human via the efficient tick.
Back in 2009, severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome, or SFTS, was discovered as it penetrated Asia. Since 2013, Japan has recorded 57 deaths from SFTS. The tick disease is often associated with diarrhea and fever. The United States has ticks capable of carrying SFTS, which means we are completely exposed to the potential spread of this deadly illness.
How To Remove A Tick
Tick repellent is the primary method of tick disease prevention, we discuss that a few sections down. However, if you do find you have a tick attached to your body, you need to get it off with immediacy. The longer the tick is attached, the more devastating the effects can be. While I do stress the urgency in removing the tick, you should not panic. And while you could purchase tick removal mechanisms, I hardly see a need.
Basic tweezers should do the trick. To remove a tick with tweezers, you should attempt to grasp the tick at the closest point of contact that the tick has with your flesh. You want to pull the tick from the skin, but don’t make hasty or harsh movements because you risk breaking off only a portion of the tick. You want a calm, consistent pulling pressure. If you do end up breaking the tick, this likely means the tick’s mouth remains attached to your skin. In this case, you will need to do a little tweezer surgery and remove the additional parts of the tick. Again, don’t panic, calm surgical movements are the means to the end.
In some locations of the country, particularly in the northeast, you can keep the tick in a baggy. Your doctor can test the tick for Lyme disease. This is up to your preference. Always be cautious after you’ve suffered a tick bite. You want to look for any signs of rashes, skin irritation near the bite, or any signs or symptoms consistent with flu. Always consider seeking advice from a medical professional.
Tick Bite Diagnosis
Maybe you never saw the tick that bit you. How would you know a tick did, in fact, bite you?
Ticks look for cozy, warm places on the body to serve themselves your juicy blood (sorry, but its true). Most ticks remain attached to your flesh following the initial bite, making them more obvious to detect. But not all do.
Tick bites can look like a swollen spot on the skin and are often associated with pain near the irritated or swollen area. The bite area may feel like a sting. It might feel like a blister. Tick bites can result in full body rashes, fevers, fatigue, and swollen lymph nodes. A tick bite is often an isolated event because ticks don’t typically congregate (thankfully).
The good news is, most tick bites are in fact, harmless; so no need to panic if you discover one. If you are outside for an extended amount of time, you need to search your body for potential issues.
Types Of Ticks
Depending on the region you live or travel, there are a variety of tick types you may end up encountering. Here are a list of different types of ticks.
Dermacentor variabilis | American Dog Tick
The popular American Dog Tick needs no cover to survive and thrive, only grassy areas. These tick are found in areas where people and animals alike walk. They have a life-cycle of two years on average. Tularemia and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever are two of their well known transmittable illnesses which the adults can harbor and spread.
Amblyomma americanum | Lone Star Ticks
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Monocytic Ehrlichiosis and ‘Stari’ borreliosis are a few illnesses that these ticks can carry once they are into their mature years. They love to bite humans and are often found in areas where animals tend to lay down.
Ixodes scapularis | Deer Ticks
Residents of deciduous forest, these ticks live for around 2 years and popularly are capable of spreading Lyme disease. They can also spread Babesiosis and Anaplasmosis. As their name suggest, they use whitetail deer, commonly found in overpopulated fashion in the Northeast, as transport and food.
Rhipicephalus sanguineus | Brown Dog Tick
These ticks are found all over the world, in terms of the United States, they are more dominant in the south. They are known to transmit both Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and rickettsia (Rickettsia rickettsia) to dogs, but hardly ever to people. They can also transmit cases of canine babesiosis and canine ehrlichiosis to dogs.
Amblyomma maculatum | Gulf Coast Tick
These ticks love grasslands. They bite humans, birds, and animals. As their name suggests, they are often found in the gulf coast region of the United States. Here’s a map:
The Gulf Coast Tick’s impact is primarily endured via dangerous and costly livestock infestations. They are known to carry Rocky Mountain spotted fever, American canine hepatozoonosis (the cause of it), Leptospira pomona (which infects livestock), and the deadly Heartwater pathogen. Additionally, they can also cause tick paralysis.
Dermacentor andersoni | Rocky Mountain Woods Tick
These tick use grasslands and shrub areas to live and hide. Both mature and immature versions of this tick can transmit illnesses such as Colorado tick fever virus, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and rickettsia to people, cats, and dogs. Rocky Mountain Woods Ticks also host a terrifying neurotoxin that can cause the infamous tick paralysis in both people and pets.
Dermacentor occidentalis | Pacific Coast Tick
These are found in shrublands from Oregon all the way down to Baja, Mexico. These are the most popular tick you will find in the state of California. Both mature and immature Pacific Coast Ticks are capable of transmitting Rocky Mountain spotted fever to people, and both cats and dogs.
Natural Tick Repellent
The absolute best defense against tick is to avoid where they are. That’s more than obvious, however, it isn’t always convenient nor is it very fun if you enjoy being outdoors. The fact is, I’ve known people to get Lyme disease by simply hanging out at their kid’s baseball games or from simply walking to their car in a parking lot that has small grass patches.
The most obvious way to fight ticks is via tick repellent. And many people want a natural tick repellent.
DEET is the most mainstream and common tick repellent on the market. The fact is, DEET works, as you can read in the Amazon reviews on Repel 100 Insect Repellent, which contains over 98% DEET in its formula. Many reviewers and people, in general, cite the following study on DEET as official proof that DEET is harmless to humans. But not everyone is convinced. I’m only going to say that as adults, we all need to decide what works best for each of us and we come to those decisions by investing time in research.
The same manufacturer also makes a DEET-free version called REPEL Lemon Eucalyptus Natural Insect Repellent. This is what I use and over the years, it has worked for my family and I. I will tell you, the scent can be intense, but that’s to be expected as that’s essentially how it repels ticks and other bugs. Repel advertises this product more under mosquito repellent marketing, however, I’ve found it does a good job with ticks. Again, research is key.
I personally spray this natural tick repellent on my feet where I suspect they commonly attempt to enter and on the back of my neck, my waistline, my head, and arms. I smell bitter, but I feel protected.
With Ticks, Clothes Matter
Ticks need access to your body in order to latch on to you, that should be obvious. Many people wonder how ticks so easily get on them. Well, ticks that often hang out in the grass are attracted to warmth. Your exposed foot (think flip-flops) or exposed calf (yep, even in jeans), is ripe for the tick to hop on. Many ticks may jump on your shoe and move up your leg. The tick will then search for a place to feast.
That said, covering up as much as possible help prevent tick bites. The issue for many people is that tick bites are most prevalent in warmer seasons when they are much less covered by clothing. However, if you live in a region, or area like the woods, where tick bites are common, you need to consider covering up as much as possible. Pants that close at the ankles are a good idea. Wear socks. Wear shoes.
The more you can cover up, the safer you will be from tick bites, it really is that simple.
Ticks suck, both literally and figuratively. That said, you can do a lot to protect yourself from tick bites, starting with the clothes you wear. Natural tick repellents offer DEET-free experiences and many do have good reviews, but you need to research more for yourself. If you suspect you have a tick bite, you shouldn’t panic, but you should pay attention and contact a medical professional, particularly if you begin experiencing flu-like symptoms.