Tick-borne diseases are on the rise and present throughout our region. Prevention should be on everyone’s mind, particularly during the spring, summer and early fall when ticks are most active.
Lyme disease is the most commonly-reported tick-borne disease in our area. Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that can cause fever, headache, fatigue and a characteristic skin rash. If left untreated, the disease can spread to joints, the heart and the nervous system.
How It Spreads
Lyme disease is spread through the bite of an infected blacklegged tick (also known as a deer tick). Only the blacklegged tick transmits the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. Fairfax County Health Department provides a free tick identification service.
Symptoms of Lyme disease
There are many Lyme disease symptoms, but not everyone has all of them:
- A bull’s-eye rash. (Only 70 to 80 percent of people with Lyme disease get this rash.)
- Achy muscles and joints.
Lyme Disease Occurrence in Fairfax County
In Virginia, as well as the U.S., the most commonly reported tick-borne illness is Lyme disease, followed distantly by spotted fever group rickettsiosis, ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis. Tick-borne disease cases are reported geographically throughout Fairfax County so all residents should be considered at risk of infection. More information about Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses is available in the Health Department’s Communicable Disease report.
Tick Paralysis Disease
Tick paralysis is a rare disease thought to be caused by a toxin in tick saliva. The symptoms include acute, ascending, flaccid paralysis that is often confused with other neurologic disorders or diseases (e.g., Guillain-Barré syndrome or botulism). Within 24 hours of removing the tick, the paralysis typically subsides.
Other Tick-Borne Illnesses
Ticks can cause other illnesses, including:
- Powassan virus.
- Rickettsia parkeri Rickettsiosis.
- Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
- Southern tick associated rash illness (STARI).
- Tick-borne relapsing fever.
- Other tick-borne spotted fever rickettsial infections.
Other tick-bite concerns:
Diagnosis and Treatment
If you have symptoms or signs of Lyme disease or another tick-borne illness, see your doctor – even if you don’t remember being bitten by a tick. Most cases of Lyme or other tick-borne diseases can be treated successfully with a few weeks of antibiotics. Learn more about the symptoms of Lyme disease from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Lyme Disease Resources
- Ticks and Tick Bite Prevention
- Ticks - CDC
- Test your knowledge with this Lyme disease quiz
- Lyme Disease Frequently Asked Questions
More About Ticks
- Common ticks in Fairfax County
- Tick-free landscaping tips
- Tick identification from the Health Department