Tick populations expanding and Tennessee home to three disease-spreading species

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NASHVILLE, Tenn.--The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the geographic ranges of tick species responsible for a majority of human disease transmissions is expanding.

The CDC says three species of tick are primarily responsible for disease transmission and all three can be found in Tennessee.

The CDC credits the Blacklegged tick, Lone Star tick, and American dog tick as the culprits. In 2014, the CDC reports Lyme disease was responsible for 69% of national vector-borne diseases, with another 25% of other diseases transmitted from ticks.

Many areas where ticks had not been previously reported are now seeing a large expansion. In 2000, there were just over 1,000 annual reported cases of spotted fever, Ehrlichioses, and Anaplasmosis -the three most reported tick borne diseases. The number of cases in 2015 jumped 9,000 reported.

Based on 2015 reporting, most of the cases reported in Tennessee were from Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Ehrlichiosis, though Lyme disease and other tickborne diseases have also been reported.

The CDC credits increasing human contact with ticks and no human vaccines to prevent tickborne diseases for the growth. The CDC recommends avoiding areas where ticks are often found, using 20-30% DEET on exposed skin, and wearing permethrin-treated clothing.

St. Thomas Health primary care Dr. Phay Chothmounethinh says if you find a tick on your body, stick to the simple method of using tweezers to slowly remove the tick. While doing so, you don't want to squeeze the belly of the tick to avoid infection being spread into the body.

Dr. Phay says to avoid using other methods such as vasoline, gas, or heat, since it could irritate the skin and the tick.

Dr. Phay adds it could be useful to save the tick in case rash or infection does spread so doctors can identify what type of tick caused the infection.

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