Part predator, part parasite, the tick is considered by many as America’s most harmful bug. Living in humid and overgrown areas, these critters make rural America more prone to acquiring the various diseases these ticks carry. From Lyme disease to Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, ticks are the proliferators of zoonotic diseases in North America (Edlow, 2004). These diseases do not have vaccines and are difficult to manage once the person is infected. This essay will cover tick-borne diseases, why they became such a major issue in recent times, existing treatment for the infections, and predictions of epidemics.
There are 20+ tick borne diseases in the U.S.A. Of the most reported, Lyme disease infects an estimated 300,000 people annually (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, Health and Medicine Division, Board on Global Health, Forum on Microbial Threats, 2016). In fact, it was not until the spread of Lyme disease that ticks were not considered a major threat. This is because humans did not often pursue outdoor recreational activities and were living in suburban or urban areas (Danbom, 2017). However, as more people move into rural areas and go outside into nature more, the risk of tick-borne diseases has grown. Hence the new worry of scientists and those aiming to understand the spread of tick-borne diseases, of an even bigger outbreak in the future (Danbom, 2017). With more cases each year, and a growing number of people with Lyme disease, it is important to understand why these infections continue and what can be done to decrease exposure to tick bites.
One of the reasons some believe tick-borne diseases are on the rise is due to climate change. However, a recent study suggests the warming temperatures may reduce pathogen densities in a tick bite.
Several studies have shown that replication rates of mosquito-borne pathogens increase with temperature, but we are aware of no studies addressing this issue for tick-borne pathogens. Alternatively, the immune responses of many invertebrates are temperature sensitive, so it is possible that ticks will be more likely to reduce pathogen densities or even clear their infections at warmer temperatures (Ostfeld & Brunner, 2015, p. 18).
This means that although climate change is an issue, it is not one that could exacerbate the prevalence of tick bites. The issue then resides in the increase of time people spend outdoors and the increase in people living in rural areas. People have begun in the last two decades to move deeper into the American south, into rural areas where the humidity, large vegetation growth make it easier for people to expose themselves to ticks (Danbom, 2017).
While numerous groups are working towards eradication of tick-borne diseases, there are efforts in developing vaccines. These efforts have produced some progress. However, there is still no definitive vaccine available for major tick-borne diseases like Lyme disease.
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“Both vaccine classes were similarly highly immunogenic. A new vaccine with high safety standards, better efficacy, low cost, and public acceptance is yet to be developed” (Badawi, Shering, Rahman, & Lindsay, 2017). Therefore, with growing concerns over tick-borne diseases, the best means of prevention is through clothing choices and inspections for any tick bites.
Going forward in the next few decades, the aim for eradication of tick-borne diseases is largely due to the profound impact one of the most widespread tick-borne diseases, Lyme disease has on those infected. Lyme disease is not curable in the sense that taking antibiotics will completely rid the body of bacteria (Badawi, Shering, Rahman, & Lindsay, 2017). However, some people have been able to eradicate the bacterial infection, thus returning to asymptomatic life. Those many that do not find a cure in standard treatment, must deal with the lifelong symptoms associated with Lyme disease. Lyme disease and to a lesser extent, Rocky Mountain Spotted fever, have led to increased awareness of tick-borne diseases and what people should do to prevent infection.
The main culprit behind Lyme disease are tick bites from the deer tick and wood tick. The classic bull’s-eye rash has become synonymous as a classic symptom of Lyme disease. The corkscrew-like bacteria ticks spread into humans through bites, can drill into any part of a person’s body, invoking various, changing symptoms (Fallon & Sotsky, 2017). The recommended treatment for those with bacterial infection of most tick-borne diseases are several weeks of antibiotics. The shorter the time interval between infection and treatment, the better the outcome.
Some people may not notice tick bites and will wait weeks for treatment due to ignorance of the infection, or fear. This can lead to a longer battle with infections like Lyme disease that require quick action (Sanchez, Vannier, Wormser, & Hu, 2016). Because many of the tick bite cases occur in rural settings, those living in rural America like areas in Minnesota or Georgia, may have a harder time getting to a doctor. Without proper speedy treatment, patients may experience lifelong battles with Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses.
Lyme disease if left uncheck in pregnant women can manifest in the infant within the womb and may result in it being stillborn (rare) (Fallon & Sotsky, 2017). If pregnant women are infected with Lyme disease, they can seek treatment in the form of antibiotics. The two designated forms of treatment are amoxicillin or cefuroxime. Amoxicillin must be taken three times a day for two weeks and cefuroxime must be taken twice a day for two-three weeks (Fallon & Sotsky, 2017). Newer treatment methods for pregnant women involve the use of doxycycline. Doxycycline can be used during the first trimester, but not during the second and third trimesters, nor should it be used for more than 10 days in most patients. However, some.....
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