Healthy Communities

Tickborne Disease

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.

In Arkansas, the tickborne diseases known to occur are:

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 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 tickBlacklegged Tick

The 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 tickBrown Dog Tick

The 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 tickGulf Coast Tick

The 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 tickLone Star Tick

The 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.

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Arkansas Department of Health
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