What is a Tick?
A tick is a small external parasite that lives off the blood of birds and mammals – including people.
They live in the soil, but when they get the munchies they climb to to top of grass, bushes, hedges, plants etc. and attach themselves to the next available blood source that happens to be passing. This could be you, or your pet or any other person and animal. You won’t feel anything because they have a type of anesthetic in their bite, which means it isn’t felt. Once embedded in the skin they will feed on blood.
Why are they dangerous?
Aside from being unpleasant (as most people like to keep their blood for themselves) they can also cause a devastating illness called Lyme Disease. You can read more about Lyme Disease and how to spot it in our article here.
However there are other lesser known problems that these tiny Ticks can cause. A combination of the changes to our climate, increasing mobile human populations, increasing numbers of pets in households and habitat loss bringing wild animals in contact with urban areas has meant an increase in the spread of worldwide tick borne infections. Ticks also have one of the widest distributions of any organism on Earth and their feeding technique of sucking our blood and living on a different host species means that they transfer diseases between species. Ticks can also carry different pathogens – bacteria and viruses.
Other Tick bourne infections we should note are:
Tick-borne rickettsiosis (TBR).
TBR is caused by a number of different bacteria distributed across the globe. TBR presents with signs and symptoms similar to Lyme disease (rashes, joint and muscle pain, and fatigue).
A tick-borne disease caused by a protozoan which is related to the microbe which causes malaria. The disease is rarely tested for by doctors and the global levels of human infection are unknown. Several species of Babesia cause the disease and the signs and symptoms can be wide-ranging and often include fever, fatigue, anaemia, and nausea – all common features of other illnesses.
Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF)
Has no treatment and kills up to can 40% of infected humans. This is a similar scale to Ebola or bubonic plague. Domestic animals such as sheep and cattle can maintain the CCHF virus in their blood at high levels means the potential for CCHF to expand into new regions like Europe is possible.
Severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome (SFTS)
Only discovered in 2009, the SFTS virus has sparked widespread fear through much of Asia. In Japan 57 people have died of the disease since 2013. Signs of the disease can range in severity from relatively mild, like fever and diarrhoea, to severe, which can include multiple organ failure. It is also known to be carried by at least two cosmopolitan tick species that are spread throughout the world including the UK.
These tiny insect-like creatures have a lot to answer for. For more information please visit the resources below.