Healthy Communities

Tickborne Disease

Current Arkansas Case Count

Tickborne Disease Human Infections

Year Anaplasmosis Ehrlichiosis Lyme Disease Spotted Fever  Tularemia Total Cases Deaths
2012 8 84 0 837 22 951 5
2013 7 165 0 480 38 690 4
2014 15 237 0 827 43 1,122 4
2015 16 192 1 896 25 1,130 2
2016 15 200 7 819 32 1,073 1
2017 4 153 2 848 14 1,021 1

Facts and Information

Tickborne Disease (TBD) is a type of zoonotic disease (an infectious disease transmitted between animals and humans) that is transmitted by ticks, a member of the arachnid family of insects. In Arkansas, ticks are responsible for more human disease than any other insect, but not all ticks transmit disease. Of the many different tick species found in Arkansas, only a select few bite and transmit disease to humans. Click here to learn more about the different kinds of ticks and where they are found.

In Arkansas, the tickborne diseases known to occur are: Anaplasmosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichiosis, and Tularemia.

Many tickborne diseases can have similar signs and symptoms. If you have been bitten by a tick and develop the symptoms below within a few weeks, a health care provider should evaluate the following before deciding on a course of treatment:

The most common symptoms of tick-related illnesses are:

Tickborne diseases can result in mild symptoms treatable at home to severe infections requiring hospitalization. Although easily treated with antibiotics, these diseases can be difficult for physicians to diagnose. However, early recognition and treatment of the infection decreases the risk of serious complications. So see your doctor immediately if you have been bitten by a tick and experience any of the symptoms described here. 

Tickborne diseases cannot be spread by person-to-person contact.

Tick Species

American Dog tick

american dog tickAmerican dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis) is the most commonly identified species responsible for transmitting Rickettsia rickettsii, which causes Rocky Mountain spotted fever in humans. The American dog tick can also transmit tularemia. This tick is widely distributed east of the Rocky Mountains and also occurs in limited areas on the Pacific Coast. D. variabilis larvae and nymphs feed on small rodents. Dogs and medium-sized mammals are the preferred hosts of adult D. variabilis, although it feeds readily on other large mammals, including humans.

Blacklegged tick

blacklegged tickThe blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis), commonly known as a "deer tick", can transmit the organisms responsible for anaplasmosis, babesiosis, and Lyme disease. This tick is widely distributed in the northeastern and upper midwestern United States. I. scapularis larvae and nymphs feed on small mammals and birds, while adults feed on larger mammals and will bite humans on occasion. It is important to note that the pathogen that causes Lyme disease is maintained by wild rodent and other small mammal reservoirs, and is not transmitted everywhere that the blacklegged tick lives. In some regions, particularly in the southern U.S., the tick has very different feeding habits that make it an unlikely vector in the spread of human disease.  

Brown Dog tick

brown dog tickThe brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus) has recently been identified as a reservoir of R. rickettsii, causing Rocky Mountain spotted fever, in the southwestern U.S. and along the U.S-Mexico border. Brown dog ticks are found throughout the U.S. and the world. Dogs are the primary host for the brown dog tick for each of its life stages, although the tick may also bite humans or other mammals.

Gulf Coast tick

gulf coast tickThe Gulf Coast tick resides in coastal areas of the United States along the Atlantic coast and the Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf Coast tick can transmit Rickettsia parkeri rickettsiosis, a form of spotted fever. A. maculatum larvae and nymphs feed on birds and small rodents, while adult ticks feed on deer and other wildlife. Adult ticks have been associated with transmission of R. parkeri to humans.

Lone Star tick

lone star tickThe lone star tick (Amblyomma americanum) transmits Ehrlichia chaffeensis and Ehrlichia ewingii, causing human ehrlichiosis, tularemia, and STARI. The lone star tick is primarily found in the southeastern and eastern United States. White-tailed deer are a major host of lone star ticks and appear to represent one natural reservoir for E. chaffeensis. A. americanum larvae and nymphs feed on birds and deer. Both nymphal and adult ticks may be associated with the transmission of pathogens to humans.

Tick Removal

A tick attached to skin should be removed as soon as possible. This is important because disease will not transmit until the tick has been attached for several hours. To remove a tick, follow these steps:

tick removal

Do not use home remedies such as “painting” the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly, or using heat to make the tick come off. The goal is to remove the tick as quickly as possible. Do not wait for the tick to let go!

If you develop a rash or fever within several weeks of removing a tick, see your doctor. Be sure to tell the doctor about your recent tick bite, when the bite occurred, and where you most likely acquired the tick. 

Arkansas Department of Health
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