The most familiar diseases caused by ticks on humans are Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Lyme disease is spread by the blackleg or "deer" tick (Ixodes species), found mostly in New England and the upper Midwest. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, which is actually found throughout the United States, is carried by dog and wood ticks (Dermacentor species).
In addition to these well-known illnesses ticks also carry parasites that can cause other diseases. These include Babesiosis, Erlichiosis, Rickettsia parkeri, Tickborne Relapsing Fever and Anaplasmosis.
Usually ticks have to latch on for several hours or more to pass along a disease, but many people are unaware that they are also at risk when handling ticks. Crushing ticks you have removed from an animal can also mean exposing yourself to the risk of tickborne disease.
How can you minimize your risk from tick diseases?First, take precautions, even when you are just in your yard. The CDC reports that up to 75% of Lyme disease cases are caught while doing activities right around the house! Wear clothing that covers your arms and legs. If you have to go into leaf litter or underbrush, pull your socks up over your pants cuffs. Use tick repellent, and check yourself for ticks as soon as you can, so you can catch them before they have time to pass along their parasites.
Second, reduce ticks in your yard. Keep your grass mowed, and remove leaf litter and underbrush as much as possible. Keep animals away from your yard by moving feeders further from your house, minimizing wood piles, and using plants that do not attract deer.
Finally, consider contacting a professional pest control company to implement a tick management program around your property. Ticks often have other hosts, including rodents, for part of their lifecycle, so tick control includes rodent control. A professional exterminator can get rid of these rodent pests for you. They can also apply anti-tick chemical treatments to create a barrier zone around your property to reduce the risk of tick exposure.