Officials: Tickborne illness likely to increase

Tickborne illness has been on a sharp rise in the U.S., and now experts say it’s only likely to increase in the years to come.

Ticks are small arachnids that carry all kinds of pathogens that impact both humans and animals. Most common among these is Lyme disease, but others include, for example, Powassan virus, which has increased from 20 reported cases before 2006 to 99 reported between 2006 and 2016.

Lyme disease is vastly underreported, experts say. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports about 30,000 cases annually in the U.S., but estimates that nearly 10 times as many cases go unreported. Symptoms in humans include headaches, neck stiffness, rashes, fever, fatigue and muscle/joint aches. In pets, you might notice your animal walking stiffly with an arched back, being sensitive to touch, difficulty breathing, fever and loss of appetite. Most infections can easily be treated with antibiotics.

Treating ourselves and our outdoor areas can protect our families and animals from tick bites. On your person, a repellent with 20% or more of DEET, picaridin or IR3535 can protect exposed skin, and products with 0.5% of the bug-killing agent permethrin can be used on clothing and gear such as boots, pants, socks and tents. A veterinarian can help find the best repellent treatment for animals at risk of tick bites, and they can be applied with sprayers or pour-on applicators.

In response to the increased threat, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases advises public health officials and researchers work to better understand diseases, improve diagnostics and develop preventive vaccines.

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