You Tick Me Off

Lone Star Tick

A new theory on meat allergy:

Lone Star Tick Linked to Sudden Outbreak of Meat Allergies | WebProNews

"University of Virginia researchers believe that something in the tick’s saliva triggers the allergy, which generally doesn’t manifest itself until about three to six hours after a savaged individual has consumed some sort of beef. Reactions range from hives to anaphylactic shock."

Ticks are well known as the vectors of Lyme disease, but that’s only one of the many diseases ticks can spread. Here are some others to trouble your sleep. 

First of all, the Ricksettsial diseases. Rickettsia are a family of bacteria, mostly rather odd, virus-like ones that do not survive outside the cell walls of a host. They are transmitted by not only ticks, but also mites, fleas, lice and flies to various animals, including people. In the human body they take up residence in the blood vessels and lymph vessels. Each disease has its own symptom picture, which usually includes some combination of rash, fever, headache, chills, exhaustion, vomiting, stomach and body pains, crusty black skin ulcers, swollen lymph nodes, eye infection, breathing troubles, sweats, pneumonia, heart and liver troubles, and even neurological damage. Some of the infections are mild, but others can be fatal. In general, the microbes thrive in a population of some sort of mammal—a reservoir—passing to people through the bites (and feces) of the arthropods I mentioned. The Rickettsial diseases ticks can give us include these:

-Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Siberian tick typhus, African tick-bite fever, Anaplasmosis, North Queensland tick typhus, Oriental spotted fever, and Aneruptive fever, all transmitted from rodents by various ticks.

-Boutonneuse fever, transmitted by ticks of the genera Rhipicephalus and Haemaphysalis, which are themselves the reservoirs of the disease. 

-Flinders Island spotted fever, transmitted by ticks from unknown reservoirs. 

-Ehrlichiosis, transmitted by our new friend the Lone Star tick (Amblyomma americanum), the common dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis), and the blacklegged deer tick (Ixodes scapularis) from horses, dogs, deer, rodents, and possibly other animals.

-Q-fever, usually transmitted from a variety of infected animals to people who breathe in their air-borne detritus, but occasionally passed by ticks as well.

-Another disease known simply as tick-borne disease, transmitted from rodents and rabbits.

But the list doesn't stop with the Rickettsial diseases. We also have:

-Colorado tick fever, spread by wood ticks, which can occasionally inflame the central nervous system. 

-Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, which afflicts lagomorphs, birds, and domestic animals; it may pass to us either through direct handling of these animals or through the bite of a tick. In some outbreaks it has produced a death rate of 50%. 

-Kyasanur Forest disease, transmitted by the forest tick Haemophysalis spinigera from a reservoir in rodents.

-Louping ill (a.k.a. ovine encephalomyelitis, trembling ill). This viral disease of sheep produces flu-like symptoms in people. 

-Pasteurellosis, a type of cat scratch fever.

-Plague. You know, the disease that wiped out a third of the human race once, and has been back for a few return engagements since. We mostly get it from fleas, but ticks make their little contribution.

-Powassan encephalitis. The virus is often harmless, but occasionally it causes a fatal swelling of the brain. 

-Relapsing fever, which causes its victim to get sick—then well—then sick—over and over. One form of the disease resides in rodent populations, only occasionally passing to people through the bites of ticks. The death rate for this tick-borne form is less than six percent. That’s pretty good compared to some of the louse-born versions; but that’s another story. 

-Tick-borne encephalitis. This virus afflicts many mammals, including cattle, sheep, and goats. It passes to humans with the bite of the deer tick. In Europe and Russia, its incidence runs to more than ten thousand cases per year.

-Tularemia, which passes to us from rabbits through the bites of tick and deer flies. It kills about 50 people in the US each year. 

Dog tick (photo by Dee Puett)
And then there’s tick paralysis, which, until ticks were implicated in this meat allergy, was the only medical problem caused not by microbes, but by the tick’s venom. It happens when certain ticks remain affixed for several days. It can kill people if the paralysis affects their breathing. In the US, people rarely suffer from this disease, but dogs sometimes do. 



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