What should you know as a patient?
Many victims of tick-borne diseases never recall being bitten! Ticks secrete an anesthetic-like substance in their saliva that numbs the skin, so that you may not feel the bite. Ticks that cause Tick-Borne Relapsing Fever in Colorado and other western states often feed at night while their victim sleeps. Because they feed quickly and then retreat (much like a bed-bug), people may not even know they have been bitten. The size of some ticks that can transmit disease are as small as a poppy seed, or the period at the end of this sentence, and can be easily missed even with frequent tick checks. Because early presentation of some diseases may be missed, it is important that you share any past exposures to ticks or tick habitats with your doctor.
There are over 20 tick-borne diseases or conditions currently known to occur throughout the US and that may Colorado residents and/or their pets. Seven diseases are currently required physician/laboratory reportable diseases in Colorado. Zoonotic disease reports in Colorado from 2012-2017 here. However, not all of the nationally notifiable tick-borne diseases are tracked or reported by the Colorado State Department of Health & Environment (CDPHE), leaving incidence of infection for many diseases unknown in Colorado. Surveillance of ticks and tick-borne diseases is also lacking in the state of Colorado. Only one limited passive surveillance survey has been conducted by the CDPHE to date. Results from this 2016 study for the most commonly encountered ticks in Colorado are displayed here. Data that was collected during this study regarding lesser encountered tick species, some with both veterinary and medical significance, are not displayed. Ticks conventionally regarded as “non-human biters” were not identified to species in the CDPHE data set, though recent research indicates that some of these species may pose a bigger risk to human health then previously considered. There is much unknown about the occurrence of ticks species and their pathogens in Colorado.
Prevention is key to avoiding tick-borne diseases, but even if all prevention measures are taken, you may still be exposed to a tick bite. Awareness is critical in recognizing symptoms of tick-borne disease.
Educating yourself about tick-borne diseases will help you effectively advocate for yourself or your loved ones. This is especially important in Colorado where doctors may not be experienced with some of the diseases you may encounter.
Ticks are capable of transmitting more than one pathogen in a single bite! Persistent symptoms after treatment for an identified or suspected disease may be due to additional unrecognized infection (co-infections) that may require extended or alternate treatment.
Treatment recommendations vary by infection and decisions regarding your course of care are best based on your individual presentation and response to treatment. These decisions should be made between you and your provider. Guidelines in regard to Lyme treatment are published by the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS). Stay alert to your symptoms and write them down. Many tick-borne diseases can initially present as vague flu-like illness. Awareness of the varied symptoms and manifestations of tick-borne diseases can aid you in your consultation with your medical care provider in both diagnosis and treatment.
If you are not receiving adequate care from your medical care provider and you suspect a tick-borne infection, you should seek consult from a physician trained in diagnosis and treatment of tick-borne diseases. Physician referral systems can assist in locating a Lyme Literate Medical Doctor (LLMD) experienced in the many presentations of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. COTBDAA is also here to help. It is rare to find an LLMD that works with insurance companies, and wait times for consult with one of these medical care providers is often lengthy. The earlier a tick-borne disease is diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome for the patient.
Colorado is in need of more medical care providers, especially ER and Primary Care Physicians, trained in the diagnosis and treatment of tick-borne diseases!
It is important to find a doctor willing to participate in a partnership with you in the treatment of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases and that you be proactive about your health by being an informed patient.
COTBDAA does not provide medical advice. Use of this site is for information only. Please consult your medical provider before making any decisions about diagnosis or treatment. COTBDAA does provide patient support to access resources. Please do not hesitate to reach out!