Beware of harmful critters, plants this summerAmong the joys of summer is the opportunity to commune with nature, but some of nature’s tiniest creatures, like the tick, can cause big health concerns.
By: Pamela Knudson, Grand Forks Herald
Among the joys of summer is the opportunity to commune with nature, but some of nature’s tiniest creatures, like the tick, can cause big health concerns.
The most common in North Dakota is the dog tick, which is associated with Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia, according to the North Dakota Department of Health.
Tularemia symptoms typically begin with a painless ulcer on the tick bite and may include swollen glands, department officials said in a news release. If the bacteria enter the bloodstream, more severe infections, including pneumonia, can occur.
Rocky Mountain spotted fever causes a sudden onset of fever, a general feeling of illness, deep muscle pain, severe headaches, chills and irritated eyes.
A rash begins on about the third day of illness, usually appearing first on the hands and feet and then spreading to the rest of the body.
In the past five years, six cases of tularemia, four cases of Rocky Mountain spotted fever and 97 cases of Lyme disease were reported in North Dakota.
Symptoms of Lyme disease occur three to 32 days after infection, the health department said. The first symptom is often a red rash near the tick bite, which develops in about 60 percent of patients.
The bacterial infection that starts with a distinctive bull’s-eye rash can require extensive antibiotic treatment and may lead to arthritic and nervous system complications.
Other symptoms: fatigue, fever, headache, stiff neck, sore muscles, swollen glands and painful joints.
Without treatment, these symptoms may last more than several weeks. Arthritis, neurological or cardiac problems may develop weeks to months later if the infection goes untreated.
The bacteria that cause Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, can infect someone 36 hours after being bitten. To stay on the safe side, authorities advise meticulous tick checks every evening after being outdoors.
Human Lyme disease cases have increased since 2005 with an average of five to 15 cases reported in North Dakota each year, the health department said. But in the past two years, 2010 and 2011, 59 cases were reported.
Two cases of Lyme disease are on record this year, said Michelle Feist, epidemiologist in the Division of Disease Control. They are in males from Cass and Morton County in the 10-to-19 and 30-to-39 age range.
The deer tick, which can carry Lyme disease, was found in spring and summer 2010 in northeast North Dakota.
Finding the deer tick in the state is significant because there could be areas at risk for Lyme disease transmission.
“Tick-borne diseases such as tularemia, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease can be prevented by taking some basic precautions to avoid tick bites,” said Alicia Lepp, epidemiologist with the department’s Division of Disease Control.
“Areas that are heavily wooded or have tall grass or brush are more likely to be infected with ticks, especially between April and September, with the highest risk of disease transmission occurring during the warmer months.”
And don’t forget about the mosquito.
Usually just annoying, this critter could give you health troubles or worse.
The West Nile virus is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito.
In North Dakota, the greatest risk for West Nile virus transmission occurs in July and August when the Culex tarsalis mosquito, which transmits the disease, is more abundant.
“Most people infected with West Nile virus experience no symptoms or have only mild symptoms such as fever and headaches,” said Michelle Feist, epidemiologist with the North Dakota Department, Division of Disease Control.
“More severe infection may result in high fever, severe headache, stiff neck, altered mental state and death,” she said.
The elderly are more likely to have severe infections, but anyone who develops severe symptoms should see a doctor.
In 2012, a total of 21 people have been tested for West Nile, but none have tested positive, Feist said. In 2011, four West Nile viral cases in humans were reported to the health department, with no deaths.
Amanda Alvarez, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel contributed to this article. Reach Knudson at (701) 780-1107; (800) 477-6572, ext. 107; or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.