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Tick Bite Update

Lynda
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News & Tips

We wrote some time back on tick bite fever, how to prevent it, how to remove a tick and the sort of symptoms you might expect if you do get tick bite fever. (See that article here)

However, should you go hiking or plan a farm stay in America. A tick bite in this part of the world can cause Lyme Disease.

Some symptoms of Lyme Disease are

  • Rash
  • Other symptoms: fever, chills, fatigue, body aches, headache, neck stiffness and swollen lymph nodes can accompany the rash.
  • Later signs and symptoms
    • Erythema migrans. The rash may appear on other areas of your body.
    • Joint pain. Bouts of severe joint pain and swelling are especially likely to affect your knees, but the pain can shift from one joint to another.
    • Neurological problems. Weeks, months or even years after infection, you might develop inflammation of the membranes surrounding your brain (meningitis), temporary paralysis of one side of your face (Bell’s palsy), numbness or weakness in your limbs, and impaired muscle movement.

Debilitating Lyme disease is caused by a tick bite.—but now researchers have discovered how the tick gets to be a carrier in the first place. Opening the door to new ways of preventing its spread.

It all starts with the white-footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus)—and not the tick. The mouse, who lives in forests and wetlands, harbours the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. And it’s the ticks that feed off the mouse that passes it on to people.

 

Scientists from the University of California at Irvine have sequenced the genome of the white-footed mouse. This gives them the roadmap to start developing preventative programs, such as an environmentally-safe vaccination.
The researchers also want to understand why the mouse doesn’t get sick from the bacteria it carries.

Remember, no rats died from carrying the bubonic plague and this could provide clues about how people could combat the infection. In addition to Lyme bacteria, the mice also carry a form of viral encephalitis, and illnesses like malaria and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Research

The research team is making the white-footed mouse’s genome sequence publicly available, so other researchers can work with it.
The rate of Lyme disease increased by 17 per cent in the US in the year to 2017, with 42,743 cases being reported.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that cases have tripled since the late 1990s. Partly down to the urbanization of rural areas and forests, and fears the actual increase is far more significant, as most cases are either never diagnosed or reported. (Source: Science Advances, 2019; 5: eaaw6441)

Tick bite fever can be avoided by being careful in the bush. If you stop on a game drive for morning coffee and muffins, or for sun-downers with your G&T, check yourself carefully. It shouldn’t stop you enjoying the great outdoors, especially at Royal Jozini – we are Southern Africa’s best-kept secret!


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