The Growing Battle Against Ticks And Tick-Borne Diseases

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The Growing Battle Against Ticks And Tick-Borne Diseases
Infographic – Photo sources – see foot of article

Like the ever-popular hay fever, tick-borne diseases also have their own “season”, or a specific time in the year where people are more likely to get infected by a disease carried by ticks. This is because ticks, along with other insects like bees, become more active in the summer as they reach their adult stage. In fact, unlike other insects who don’t survive the winter, ticks typically plow on through the coldest time of year in their nymph stages and become full-fledged adults when temperatures rise during the summer. Which means one thing: tick season is upon us!

Why Should You Be Worried About Ticks Anyway?

While there are many kinds of tick species all over the world, you have to be concerned about a select few that bite and infect people with disease. Remember: different kinds of ticks carry different kinds of diseases and also live in different places. In the United States, the most common diseases passed on from ticks to humans are Lyme disease, babesiosis, Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness, Tick-borne Relapsing Fever, and tularemia. Out of all of these, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites Lyme disease as the most commonly reported tick-borne disease with around 30,000 cases reported to the CDC each year. Lyme disease is commonly seen among people who live or work in sites where there are a lot of ticks like the woods or grassy areas. [1]

What Is Lyme Disease?

In an interview CNN had with Goudarz Molaei, a research scientist at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, he clarified that technically speaking, ticks aren’t insects. They are basically spiders, meaning they are arachnids and have eight legs upon reaching adulthood. However, they are parasitic, needing the blood of mammals, birds, or reptiles to survive. It is through these bites that they transmit the dangerous microorganism responsible for Lyme disease: Borrelia burgordoferi. [2]

Molaei reports that the blacklegged tick makes up nearly 90 percent of the ticks in the Northeast and upper Midwestern US and is primarily responsible for spreading Lyme disease. Lyme Disease, as reported by the CDC, causes fever, headache, fatigue, and trademark bulls-eye rash called erythema migrans. If Lyme disease is untreated, it can infect the joints, heart, and nervous system. [2]

Other Illnesses To Watch Out For

Dr. Jennifer Lyons, who is the chief of the Division of Neurological Infections and Inflammatory Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, was also interviewed by CNN regarding the rare Powassan virus. She reports that most of the infected people never actually show any symptoms, but if they do, it’s typically just mild fever and headache, and sometimes a rash. Lyons estimated that roughly 15 percent of these people who show symptoms are seriously affected and do not survive, and about 50 percent of those who do survive have long-term neurological damage. [2]

Babesiosis, another rare tick-borne disease, is usually symptom-less but others do develop fever, chills, sweats, headache, body aches, appetite loss, nausea, and fatigue, all symptoms similar to flu. Borrelia miyamotoi, according to Molaei, was discovered around 15 years ago in the US and causes relapsing fever. [2]

The CDC website has helpfully sorted out diseases from ticks according to the species: [3]

– American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis): Tularemia, Rocky Mountain spotted fever
– Blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis): Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, babesiosis, Borrelia miyamotoi, Powassan disease
– Western blacklegged tick (Ixodes pacificus): Anaplasmosis, Lyme disease
– Brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus): Rocky Mountain spotted fever
– Gulf Coast tick (Amblyomma maculatum): Rickettsia parkeri rickettsiosis
– Lone star tick (Amblyomma americanum): Ehrlichia chaffeensis, Ehrlichia ewingii, Heartland virus, tularemia, and STARI (Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness)
– Rocky Mountain wood tick (Dermacentor andersoni): Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Colorado tick fever, tularemia

Natural Ways To Fend Off Ticks

1. Animal control

Would you believe that one of the best ways to fend off ticks is through animal control? We have been so obsessed with insecticides and chemicals to kill off unwanted pests but we forget that in the natural way of the world, there is a hierarchy when it comes to animals. Guinea fowls, as violent and noisy as they are, eat ticks and many other insects! Guinea Fowl International’s president, Cindy Gibson, can testify to how guinea fowls were able to get rid of the grasshoppers that once overran her farm in Texas; they also work well against ticks! An article published way back when by the New York Times focused on how Guinea Fowls were able to “peck away at Lyme Disease Ticks”, and while this particular article is close to 20 years old, it still proves true until today. Various testimonies from animal owners found that guinea fowls, even babies (called “keets”), were able to nearly eradicate ticks from dogs, cats, and even deer. [4][5]

2. Nootkatone

Nootkatone is a grapefruit essential oil was shown to be effective in killing nymph ticks. This oil can also be taken from various woods including cedar and is quite effective as a pest control against ticks for as long as eight weeks. While nootkatone is a little bit expensive than other essential oils, it is very effective at low concentrations, meaning it will work against ticks even if you just use a little. [6]

In a report presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society, focus was placed on how this extract was “effective as a control agent for mosquitoes, ticks, and bedbugs.” Nootkatone could in fact be the most effective agent against Lyme-disease carrying ticks. [7]

Other Natural Ways To Get Rid Of Ticks… [8]

3. Oils

Aside from nootkatone (which isn’t as readily available as these), you can opt for aromatherapy oils like basil, cinnamon, lemon, cedar, lavender, and pennyroyal as tick repellants. You can even mix vegetable oil, which contains sulfur that is a natural tick repellant, with peppermint oil and use it once a week on your pet. Eucalyptus, neem, cinnamon, and clove oil are also another effective substitutes for peppermint oil.

4. Baking soda

Mix half a teaspoon of baking soda with a little bit salt and add this to four ounces of apple cider vinegar. Place your mixture in a spray bottle and spritz your pets a two to three times a day on your pets.

5. Orange

The natural citric acid from oranges can also help keep the ticks away while keeping your pets smelling nice! Squeeze out fresh orange juice (you can even blend an entire orange, peel and all) and spray or apply with a cotton ball on your pet.

6. Combs

Did you know that there are fine-toothed combs made especially for getting rid of ticks and fleas? While these won’t really kill of the ticks, you can remove them from your pet’s fur and see what kind of ticks your pet has (which can make it easier to identify what kind of diseases you and your family may be exposed to).

Further Reading:

How To Naturally Repel Ticks And Fleas For Humans and Pets

How To Make A Homemade Tick Repellent Using Essential Oils


[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Tick-borne diseases.

[2] Scutti, S. (2017). What you need to know about ticks.

[3] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Geographic distribution of ticks that bite humans.

[4] Winkler, H. (2014). Guinea Fowl. Your Overlooked Backyard Buddy.

[5] The New York Times (1999). Guinea Fowl Peck Away At Lyme Disease Ticks.

[6] Lee, G. Natural Ways to Protect Your Family Against Ticks with Lyme disease and Co-infections.

[7] American Chemical Society (2013). Substance that gives grapefruit its flavor and aroma could give insect pests the boot.

[8] Wilson, S. Worried About Ticks on Your Pets? 15 Natural Remedies to Get Rid of Them.

Infographic photo sources:,_pink)_white_bg.jpg

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