Blood Sucking Bug Brings Disease

Ticks can be vectors of infectious disease and studies are beginning to show that northern California has the highest rates of tick borne illness on the West Coast. A UC Davis researcher plans to begin a study in the Klamath-Trinity region next month to quantify the human impacts caused by tick borne illnesses.

Tick Borne Illnesses to Be Studied in K-T Region

By ALLIE HOSTLER, Two Rivers Tribune

Unexplained flu-like symptoms that lurk year-round could indicate an unexpected, out of the ordinary illness.

Ticks, the blood sucking arthropod in the arachnid taxon, feed on the blood of mammals carrying with them diseases that cause an array of annoying and sometimes life threatening symptoms.

Lyme disease may ring a bell, but how about anaplasmosis? Not usually. Northern California has the highest rates of tick borne illnesses in the State, particularly Mendocino and Humboldt Counties according to research presented to the Hoopa Valley Tribal Council last week by a team of veterinarians who plan to begin a research project on tick borne illnesses in the Klamath-Trinity region.

Working under the supervision of Dr. Janet Foley, Nicole Stephenson is a veterinarian and PhD candidate at UC Davis. She has identified the Klamath-Trinity region as a study area for her graduate project which could pave the way for tick research in Northern California by identifying direct impacts to humans and domestic animals.

“The highest prevalence of tick borne disease in animals on the west coast is in Northern California, mainly in Humboldt County,” Stephenson said. “We want to find out how big of an issue tick borne illnesses really are.”

Hoopa Tribal Forestry has worked closely with the researchers at UC Davis. Mark Higley, wildlife biologist at the Forestry Department, said employees spend a lot of time in the forest and are bit by ticks every other week or so.

“Their interest is in documenting exposure,” Higley said. “They are trying to work with Green Diamond timber company. They want to be sure that anybody who wants to be tested can be tested.”

Dr. Emmet Chase at Hoopa’s K’ima:w Medical Center has joined in the discussion with the researchers and has agreed to cooperate with the project by asking patients who display symptoms if they want to be tested.

“We don’t usually do tests unless somebody develops symptoms,” Chase said. “Common symptoms are flu-like and a rash that can develop.”

In the U.S. more than 100,000 cases of Lyme have been reported since 1982. Lyme disease was first discovered in 1975 after a mysterious outbreak of arthritis in children who lived near Lyme, Connecticut. Most people think Lyme is caused directly by tick bites. However, Lyme disease is an infectious disease (a disease caused by an outside agent) that affects the skin first, then the joints, the nervous system and, if untreated, eventually other organs.

Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi. This bacteria is found in the wild and ticks can be carriers. If left untreated Lyme disease can lead to arthritis and neurological disorders in humans and Stephenson hopes to also examine the presence of Lyme Disease and other tick borne illnesses in domestic animals such as dogs, cats, horses and cattle.

Foley said many doctors in California are taught that Lyme disease isn’t a problem on the west coast. “But it is,” she said. “It’s not anywhere near the prevalence on the east coast, but it’s bad.”

Unlike the tick, Stephenson will use a syringe to gather blood samples beginning in August from local residents who wish to participate in the research. The test is free and if a subject tests positive they will have the opportunity to take a second test to confirm the result.

Both Lyme disease and anaplasmosis are easily treatable in humans and animals with a short round of antibiotics, but if left untreated the diseases can have severe impacts on human health.

“It’s not just that there are a lot of ticks in Hoopa,” Foley said. “It’s the increased risk people have because of what they do—fishing, hunting and cultural use of the forest. Are these people at a greater risk or are they not. That’s what we hope to discover.”

Stephenson has three to five years to complete the project however they hope to have a good snapshot of human risk within 12 to 16 months.

For more information visit


SIDEBAR: How to Remove a Tick

If you find a tick on you or your pet, it should be removed as soon as possible. A pat of fine-tipped tweezers or commercial tick removal device should be used to remove the tick. Use the fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and gently pull upward with steady pressure. Do not twist or jerk, as this could cause the mouth parts to break off. After removing the tick, clean the skin with soap and water or alcohol. Do not use home remedies such as Vaseline, nail polish or burning with a match.
The best way to prevent tick-transmitted diseases is to avoid tick bites. The best way to avoid ticks are: Use insect repellents such as DEET and permethrin; Wear light colored clothing when outdoors so ticks are visible; Perform a thorough tick-check on yourself after being outdoors; Bath or shower immediately after being outdoors to remove ticks that may be crawling on you.
If you develop a spreading rash or flu-like symptoms (fever, headache, chills, muscle aches) within 30 days after a tick bite, consult your physician.
It is also important to prevent ticks on your pets. The best way to accomplish this is to use a flea and tick repellent such as Frontline Plus for dogs and cats or K9 Advantix for dogs only. Also check your pets for ticks often, especially after they have been outdoors.

[Source: Nicole Stephenson, DVM, MPVM]

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July 27th, 2012

6 to “Blood Sucking Bug Brings Disease”

  1. Beverly santos says:

    Are you doing the IDSA protocol by starting with an Elisa? If you are the study will be worthless.
    Please consider a western blot. I tested neg with
    Elisa as did a lot of other patients have but we’re
    Very positive by blots. Thanks for taking on this
    Project and good luck

  2. Dolores Claesson says:

    Thank you for writing this article and a huge thank you to the researchers. Lyme disease is an illness comprised of many pathogens. Bacterial, viral, protozoal, and other parasites are transmitted by ticks. The American Veterinary Association has listed some of the more prevalent pathogens in hunters and outdoor enthusiasts. Please test the ticks and people for all known pathogens. Lyme patient have much more than infection with Borrelia and Anaplasma.

    Disease precautions for hunters

    June 14, 2010

    Print version

    This paper is intended to be a general guide about diseases that hunters and their hunting dogs may encounter. Links to additional information have been provided where appropriate. Hunters should always consult their physician if they are concerned they have been exposed to a disease or are showing symptoms of illness. If there are any concerns that your hunting dog or any other companion animal may have contracted any of these diseases, please contact your veterinarian.


    Protecting Hunters from Risk: Some Common Sense Guidelines


    · Anaplasmosis

    · Avian Influenza

    · Babesiosis

    · Brucellosis

    · Campylobacteriosis (Campylobacter jejuni)

    · Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)

    · Cryptosporidiosis

    · Deer Parapoxvirus

    · Hydatid Tapeworms (Echinococcosis)

    · Ehrlichiosis

    · Equine Encephalitis Viruses

    · Escherichia coli Infection (E. coli)

    · Giardiasis

    · Hantavirus

    · Leptospirosis

    · Lyme Disease (Lyme borreliosis)

    · Plague

    · Q fever

    · Rabies

    · Raccoon Roundworm (Baylisascaris procyonis)

    · Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (tick-borne typhus fever) and other spotted fevers

    · Salmonellosis (Salmonella species)

    · Sarcoptic mange

    · Toxoplasmosis

    · Trichinellosis (trichinosis)

    · Tuberculosis

    · Tularemia

    · West Nile Virus

    Specific Risks Associated with International Hunting

    · Chikungunya

    · Crimean Congo hemorrhagic fever

    · Rift Valley Fever virus

  3. jim says:

    The screening for lyme gives a false negative almost half of the time. Don’t bother using it (ELISA)
    Please do these people a favor and Western blot them first. As far as the stages of Lyme, there is no pairticular order of symptoms. Mine started with a huge rash, neurological symptoms, 105f fever, all at once with meningitis. Most people aren’t like that though. They get general widespread symptoms that doctors write off as in the patients head.

    A bullseye rash means they are positive so photograph it for future use. a bullseye rash IS a positive test.

    Lastly, telling people to remove a tick the size of a grain of sand by the head only does not work. People need to buy tick tweezers of good quality. They have a point small enough to do this.

    This disease started because the plum island lab screwed up. Its off the coast of CT. Migrating birds brought it here thanks to stupid government employees. Watch the plum island conspiracy theory.

    Good luck

  4. Last summer I was up at the Sequoia National Park and after 4 days of a tick in my belly button with a rash all around it! I put Tea Tree oil on the rash then something looked dark in it. So I got my glasses on and got it out and it was a Deer tick. I went to the Dr. got on antibiotics I don’t think they reported it. I would like to know how and where I can report this tick bite myself. Thank you for the information. I was also bite by a tick in Maryland 6 years ago when visiting family there. Came back to Ca. sick and rash all over my legs couldn’t walk on my legs, weak got antibiotics from a walk in clinic thought it was a bad rash that looked infected. Felt better, but keep getting sick again and again up and down roller coaster ride, Doctor after Doctor who couldn’t find what was causing everything going on in my body. Any way… long story but I would like to report this to the right person. So people can be aware of how many Lyme Disease ticks are in California and Maryland. thanks cndy

  5. It simply is not true that the prevalence of Lyme in California is nowhere near the prevalence on the East Coast. UC Davis entomologist has conducted many research projects over the past 29 years in Mendocino County. One of his early studies established that 24% of the resident population of a small rural community was higher than 24 percent. The annual incidence was 1.7%, “comparable to or higher than the cumulative frequencies/incidences from the Northeast.” (Lane et al. 1992)
    Another Mendocino County study found 76 cases of Lyme disease in one year in a small valley population of 1500 – a cumulative incidence of 5/100,000.
    After an active surveillance study in Humboldt County the incidence figure of 14.2/100,000 was revised upwards to 65.7/100,000 — more than double the New York incidence.
    One of the problems with reporting is that doctors read articles discounting the risk of Lyme disease, so they don’t consider it in the differential diagnosis. The tests are very insensitive, and many people go undiagnosed, sometimes for years. In our survey, the average wait was 4 years to diagnosis.

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