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Ticks are an important source of disease within the United States. They typically are found in wooded areas or areas with long grass. Ticks feed on the blood of animals and can spread diseases through their bites, although not all tick bites result in illness. Ticks in the early stages of life (larva stage) usually feed on small animals like mice and birds. Older stages of ticks (nymphs and adults) can feed on humans and larger animals. Spring and summer are the most common seasons for tickborne diseases to occur in northern states, but tickborne diseases can occur throughout the year in Florida.
The most common diseases that come from ticks in Florida are ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and other spotted fever illnesses. Symptoms of tick-borne diseases usually start within two weeks of being bitten. Although there are disease-specific symptoms such the bull’s eye rash that can be seen in some cases of Lyme disease, the most common symptoms for tick-borne disease are fever, headache, and muscle pain. These symptoms may also be seen with many other types of illnesses. Therefore, if you become ill after recently being in an area that is wooded or has long grass, it is always important to tell your health care provider that you were in tick habitat so that tick-borne diseases are considered. These diseases can be treated with appropriate antibiotics.
Ways to Prevent Tick Bites
- Use repellant that contains 20-30% DEET
- Apply permethrin to clothing and gear
- Walk in the center of paths and trails
- Perform regular tick checks on yourself, your family, and your pets
- Shower soon after being in tick habitat
- Use veterinarian recommended products to keep ticks off pets
- Keep grass, shrubs and trees close to your residence trimmed