August 11, 2005
Scientists have discovered that a common dog tick can do more than irritate your pet. The tick can also spread a deadly disease.
The blood-sucking insects are spreading an infectious disease across the country. Scientists said this is the first time that a common type of dog tick is infecting animals and humans with a serious and often fatal illness called Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
Scientist discovered it while investigating the 16 cases and two deaths from the disease in Arizona.
"We do see several cases of it each year in our district," said Roy Crewz, of the Thomas Jefferson Health Department.
The ticks are infected with bacteria and when they bite, the disease spreads. It caused symptoms of fever, nausea, and vomiting.
"This particular tick only needs to be on your skin 4 to 6 hours to actually affect you," said Crewz.
"They can all lead to extremely serious symptoms in your dog and unfortunately a dog can also be a vector for ticks on people," said Dr. Steve Epstein, a Charlottesville Veterinarian.
That's why veterinarians like Dr. Epstein feel pet owners should try their best to prevent it. For dogs there is "Frontline" and the "Preventic Collar." However, even the products may not always work.
"Pet owners should do daily tick checks because no product is completely effective in removing or preventing your animal from getting ticks," said Dr. Epstein.
The same goes for humans, as well. Ticks love grassy areas. They tend to crawl up tall shrubs until they find someone to bite and poison.
Experts said if your outside for a long period of time check yourself every 4 hours for ticks.
"The disease can be really really debilitating and it's certainly a public health issue that we want to have people address," said Crewz.
Experts add that if you do find a tick, remove it with tweezers and save it in a plastic bag in the freezer so the tick can be identified later if you do become ill.