Tick-borne diseases take many forms
Milford. Consulting microbiologist for Pike County's task force and support network offers advice during tick season.
By Robert-A. Ollar, Ph.D
Tick-borne diseases are associated with multiple infectious agents. A tick can acquire more than a dozen different pathogens from host animals before a person is bitten. The sidebar includes a partial list of pathogens that can be found in a tick in the New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania tristate area.
Always keep in mind that diseases associated with a tick bite are often associated with multiple co-infecting organisms such as those cited above. Quite frequently a person can acquire one, two, three or more co-infecting organisms in a single tick bite. In fact, a person can acquire single or multiple infectious agents from a tick bite that does not have to include the Lyme organism Borrelia burgdorferi. Remember Lyme disease is only one infection and not a synonym for all infections associated with ticks.
This is why it is so important to have your doctor test you for the complete tick panel currently known to be present in our tristate area. Major labs that offer complete tick panel testing are: Quest Diagnostics, Medical Diagnostic Laboratories, LLC (MDL), and IGeneX Inc.
In addition, it is important to have the tick tested by the Tick Research Lab of Pennsylvania, Northeast Wildlife DNA Laboratory, located at East Stroudsburg University. Tick testing is very important as it will give you doctor a “heads up” as to the kind of tick borne pathogens to which you have been exposed.
Sadly, there are so many overlapping symptoms associated with tick related infections that it is often difficult to make an accurate diagnosis solely based on symptoms alone. Some of these early manifestations are: fatigue, chills, fever, headache, muscle and joint pains, swelling of joints, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, palpitations, swollen lymph nodes, rash, numbness, dizziness, unsteady gait, confusion, forgetfulness, disorientation, mood swings, loss of appetite, weakness and loss of coordination. In addition, often neurological manifestations can mimic such neurological diseases as: Lou Gehrig’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease. Tick bites are a big deal and one should consult your doctor without delay.
Remember: prevention is the best way to avoid tick bites.
Robert-A. Ollar is consulting microbiologist for the Pike County Tick Borne Diseases Task Force Committee in Milford; consulting microbiologist, TBD Support Network, Milford; and clinical assistant professor of neurology at New York Medical College, Valhalla, N.Y.