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Tickborne Illness

Ticks are in the group arachnids with spiders, scorpions, and mites. Unlike insects arachnids have four pairs of legs and no antennae. There are two well established families of ticks, the Ixodidae (hard ticks), and Argasidae (soft ticks). Both soft and hard ticks are important vectors of diseases world wide. Various species of hard ticks are responsible for the common tickborne diseases found in Oklahoma.

Hard ticks feed on blood from mammals as they mature through their life stages. The six-legged tick larvae (often called a “seed tick”) hatch from the egg and after their first blood meal, molt to the nymphal stage and acquire eight legs. Following another blood meal the ticks molt into the final adult stage where they again seek a blood meal. Once the adult female tick has taken a blood meal she will lay one batch of a thousand eggs and die. One blood meal is taken during each life cycle.

To feed on humans or other host animals, ticks must be able to first get on to their host, which is a challenge since they cannot jump or fly. Ticks wait on grass and other vegetation on the ground until the host animal walks by. Using their front legs, the ticks climb on to the host and feed. Hard ticks may feed for several days or even weeks before releasing from their host.

Ticks are abundant in Oklahoma and commonly feed on humans and other animals. Although only a small percentage of these ticks are infected with disease causing bacteria, numerous tickborne illnesses including Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, ehrlichiosis, and tularemia are reported each year.

Please use the links for additional information about selected tickborne illnesses:

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
Southern Tick Associated Rash Illness (STARI)
Lyme Disease
Tickborne Disease Prevention Page

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