Health Team

N.C. Is Buckle of 'Tick Belt'

Posted June 21, 2007
Updated June 25, 2007

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— North Carolina is the heart of what some health experts call the "tick belt," making area resident prime candidates for tick-borne diseases.

The "tick belt," which runs from Virginia to Georgia and west to Oklahoma, is awash in insect s searching for a meal of blood in each of their three life cycle phases -- larva, nymph and adult.

"We'll have multiple outbreaks of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever over the spring through the fall," said Dr. David Weber, an epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina.

About half of all people who have been bitten by a tick aren't aware a tick was on their body, Weber said. A tick needs to be in place 12 to 24 hours before it can infect anyone, he said, but symptoms of a tick-borne illness might not appear for up to 14 days after the bite -- and the tick is likely long gone by then.

Deer ticks, which are about the size of a pencil point, can spread Lyme disease, but it's not very common in North Carolina, Weber said. The biggest threat from ticks in this area is Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which is transmitted by dog ticks, which are the size of a pencil eraser.

"Although it's called Rocky Mountain spotted fever, it's really much more common in our part of the country," he said, adding that one in five infected people die from the disease unless it's treated.

The initial symptoms are a high fever, a headache, muscle aches and fatigue. After a day or two, those symptoms become more severe, and nausea and vomiting set in. People also might develop a rash on the forearms and legs, which can spread and become tiny blood blisters.

Weber said there is no good early lab test for Rocky Mountain spotted fever, but the fever and two of the other symptoms are a red flag for him.

He recommended people check themselves and their children twice a day if they're in tick-infested areas, such as places with tall grass. Keeping a yard well manicured can eliminate the problem.

Anyone in a high-grass area, like the rough of a golf course, should wear light-colored clothing to see a tick more easily. They also can tuck their pant legs into their socks to keep ticks off their skin.

Ticks look for a place like the groin area, under arms or the nape of a neck on to attach. If a tick burrows into the skin, Weber said tweezers are the best way to remove them. Grab them at the head and gently pull straight out, he said. Don't crush the tick because that could lead to infection, he said, adding they can be flushed down a toilet.


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  • DontBelieveTheHype Jun 26, 2007

    Worst Tick Picture Ever!

  • twister235 Jun 23, 2007

    There are Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme disease titers that can be checked to see if you have developed the illness. They are both blood tests. The article said there was no blood test but that is not true.

  • packandcanesfan Jun 22, 2007

    THe scary thing is, he's treated with Frontline.


    Thanks for sharing just in case we need to know this and the symptoms. Scary in the fact that these nasty creatures might be building up immunity to these treatments. Seems like more and more diseases are linked to a tick.

  • Blessyourheart Jun 22, 2007

    Here's something else to keep in mind... my german shepherd was acting very lethargic and dropping weight. When i took him to the vet she diagnosed him with erlichioses which is another infection caused by ticks. Left untreated it can cause the dog to become anemic and eventually bleed to death. THe scary thing is, he's treated with Frontline.

  • packandcanesfan Jun 22, 2007

    Eww.. I hate these things..especially after they have been attached and are full. We always burned the ticks with a match. Ewww..

  • Rocknhorse Jun 22, 2007

    My niece was lucky. She had the tell-tell bulls-eye rash that accompanies lyme disease. But even so, the blood test came back negative. The drs put her on antibiotics and she is better now. They said that the rash is a give away, but even that doesn't always show up!

  • Lolly52 Jun 22, 2007

    "Does anyone know if there is a blood test for West Nile virus antibodies yet"

    They can test birds for the antibodies.

  • tmlcary Jun 22, 2007

    I have 2 dogs and I've found a tick on each of them in the last 2 weeks.

  • Outlaw Subdivision 4-wheelers Jun 22, 2007

    "According to my doctor and the CDC, there are blood tests to confirm both Rocky Mountain Spotted Tick Fever and Lyme Disease."

    The Lyme disease test that are currently available are totally unreliable. My wife is finally getting better now that she is being treated for lyme disease but every single lyme test has shown negative. If you have strange symptoms that you and your doctor can't explain then PLEASE reseach the internet and find a Lyme literate Dr. If we had listened to the quacks my wife may very well be dead right now instead of getting better.

  • Josey Wales Jun 22, 2007

    The best deterrent for ticks is a product called Permanome. You spray it on your clothes, not your skin. It WILL keep the ticks off of you. I know because I am in the woods a lot and have tried everything. The only place I can find it is at Wal-Mart. You have to look for it in the camping section yourself because the employees are no help.