Reported cases of tick-borne illnesses are up throughout the state of Missouri. In June, a Meramec State Park Assistant Superintendent died from complications of Bourbon virus, a rare disease thought to be carried by ticks. After her death, health officials had thousands of ticks from the park shipped to the CDC in Atlanta for analysis. The results of these tests are still pending.
However, at least six different human tick-borne diseases have been reported in Missouri in recent years: Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis, tularemia, Q-fever, Lyme or a lyme-like disease and the southern tick-associated rash illness.
Tick-borne diseases are a type of emerging disease, many of them first recognized in the last 30 years. Human case numbers per year for tick-borne diseases are generally on the rise. This upward trend is due to better recognition and disease reporting, but is also a reflection of changes in the environment that fosters increased exposure and transmission to humans. Fortunately, not all ticks are infected, so a tick bite does not necessarily mean you will get a disease. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) wants people to know that taking proper precautions can greatly reduce their chance of being bitten.
The signs and symptoms of tick-borne disease can vary by individual and are often mistaken for influenza. A person should see a doctor if they experience:
An ill person should report any tick bites, removals or exposure to a tick habitat immediately to their healthcare provider.
Most tick-borne diseases, such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis, tularemia, Q- fever and Lyme or a lyme-like disease are reportable in Missouri. Reporting helps DHSS monitor disease trends, track unusual occurrences or clusters of diseases and identify possible risk factors associated with diseases.