Ticks are not insects. Ticks are bloodsucking external parasites that feed on humans, wild and domestic mammals, reptiles and others. The longer an infective tick feeds, the greater the chance of infection. Not every tick is infected with disease! In order to become infected it must first feed on an infected mammal and then it regurgitates the bacteria into the next host it feeds upon.

Over 49 species of migrating birds have been known to carry the black legged tick, which is also helping to spread the bacteria into uninfected areas.

Ticks can go unnoticed, because they are so small. The larvae is the size of this period. Larger, adult ticks, are about this size:
Engorged ticks may appear even bigger:

Several kinds of ticks can be found in Iowa.
       Ixodes scapularis
    (Black-legged tickordeer tick,
                      in the right side of photo)
            Dermacentor (Dog or wood tick
                   left side of photo)

    Amblyoma americana
    (Lone Star tick)
          Notice the white spot on the
          back of the
female Lone star.

All tick bites can be dangerous. Ticks can bacteria and parasites which can infect people and animals causing the diseases Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis, or Bartonella.
In the past, only the black-legged tick was proven capable of transmitting the bacteria to humans. Current research has now proven the Lone star is able to transfer the Borrelia bacteria to humans and dogs. The dog (wood) tick has also been found harboring the Borrelia bacteria, but more research is needed to "satisfy" public health officials that it too can transmit the bacteria to humans.

Black legged ticks: 2 year life cycle and must feed 3 times. The adult ticks are black and/or reddish and feed on cattle, deer, dogs and humans.

Lone Star tick are larger that the black legged and rounder in appearance, and only the female has a white dot. Lone star ticks are known for causing Rocky Mountain Spotted Tick Fever.

Ticks prefer to feed on small
            mammals such as mice, squirrels,
            chipmunks, etc. They do not fly, hop
            or jump. They wait in leaf litter, logs,
            or the tips of tall grass for a passing
            warm body to crawl onto.
            (see tick on mouse ear)
Lyme Disease Facts -
What is it and where did it come from?

    Definition of Lyme Disease - Lyme disease is a bacterial
    infection caused by the cork-screw shaped bacterium, Borrelia
    burgdorferi, and is primarily transmitted through the bite of an
    infected tick.

    How the disease is spread - Small mammals such as the
    mice, voles, chipmunks, and large mammals such as the white
    tailed deer are hosts to the Ixodes scapularis (black-legged tick)
    and Lone star tick. Over 49 species of migrating birds have
    been found to carry these ticks.

    Borrelia strains - Since 1982 over 100 U.S. and 300 worldwide
    strains of the bacterium have been discovered.

    Borrelia Burgdorferi - The causative agent, Borrelia burgdorferi,
    is a type of spirocheteal bacteria. Other spirochetes include the
    causative agents of syphilis, and relapsing fever. Spirochetes
    are long, thin, spiral-shaped bacteria. About 100,000 of “Bb” laid
    side to side would equal one inch. The bacterium is able to
    move around the body through the bloodstream and between
    tissue. It can also invade tissue, replicate, and leave the cell -
    destroying the cell as it emerges. Sometimes, as the bacterium
    emerges, the cell wall collapses around the bacterium, forming
    a "cloaking device". This action may aid the bacteria's ability to
    hide from the immune system response. The bacteria can also
    change into a spheroplast or “L” form as well as a cyst stage,
    thus unaffected by common antibiotics. Many Lyme patients
    have co-infections with babesia, ehrlichia, and/or HHV-6, a
    herpes virus, which makes treatment much more challenging.

    Lyme disease history - It is a popular misconception that Lyme
    disease was discovered in the late 1970's in Lyme,
    Connecticut, but 100+ year old laboratory mice specimens have
    been found infected with this bacterium.

    In the early 1980's, an entomologist at the U.S. Rocky Mountain
    Lab., of the National Institutes of Health by the name of Willy
    Burgdorfer, MD, Ph.D., was investigating outbreaks of Rocky
    Mountain spotted fever. He undertook a very close inspection of
    the tick--and found poorly stained, sluggish spirochetes. Within
    a year, the spirochetes had been named Borrelia burgdorferi
    (Bb), in his honor, and definitely identified as the causative
    agent of Lyme disease.
Ticks - Behavior, Life Cycle and Habitat

    Rash - Lyme disease is called the Great Imitator because it can
    mimic many other diseases, such as MS, Fibromyalgia, Chronic
    Fatigue, and Rheumatoid Arthritis, which makes diagnosis
    difficult. A rash can appear several days after infection, or not at
  • It can last a few hours or up to several weeks. The rash can be
    very small or very large (up to twelve inches across).
  • A bulls-eye rash is the hallmark of LD. It is a round ring with
    central clearing. Unfortunately, this is not the only rash
    associated with Lyme.
  • Various other rashes associated with LD have been reported.
  • One bite can cause multiple rashes.
  • The rash can mimic such skin problems as hives, eczema,
    sunburn, poison ivy, flea bites, etc.
  • The rash can itch or feel hot or may not be felt at all.
  • The rash can disappear and return several weeks later.
  • For those with dark skin the rash will look like a bruise.
  • If you notice a rash, take a picture of it. Some physicians require
    evidence of a rash before prescribing treatment.
  • The bulls-eye rash occurs only 50% of the time.

    Other Early symptoms - Fever, muscle and joint aches, fatigue,
    sore throat, swollen glands, flu like aches, stiff neck, light
Diagnosis, Laboratory Tests and Treatment

    Diagnosis - There is no test that can determine if a patient is
    infected with the LD bacterium and then demonstrates that the
    patient has become bacterium-free. Therefore, LD is a clinical
    diagnosis, based on signs and symptoms, with the patients
    travel history to endemic areas and test results being additional
    pieces of information in the complete picture. No test can "rule-
    out" Lyme disease.

    Laboratory tests - see Tests and Treatment page for more

    Treatment - Antimicrobial therapy is the foundation of Lyme
    disease management. Oral therapy with doxycycline or
    amoxicillin is appropriate for cases of early Lyme disease
    without neurologic involvement. Parenteral therapy with
    ceftriaxone should be reserved for patients with neurologic
    involvement, severe arthritis, or any life-threatening
    manifestation of Lyme disease such as complete heart block.

    Controversy surrounds the issue of patients with persisting
    signs and symptoms of the disease that results in chronic
    neurologic or rheumatologic disability. Several explanations
    have been proposed for residual symptoms in some patients:
    continued infection, immunologic disease, permanent tissue
    damage resulting from the initial infection, or coinfection with
    another tick-borne pathogen. Oral antimicrobial therapy is
    effective and appropriate for most patients. Intravenous therapy
    is reserved for more serious disseminated cases.

    For more information, see our Tests and Treatment page.
Protection and Prevention

    Protection and prevention - The use of sprays is a personal
    decision so you must know the facts. Products that contain
    DEET are tick repellents. They do not kill the tick and are not
    100% effective in discouraging a tick from feeding on you.
    Products like Permanone contain premethrin, and are known to
    kill ticks. However, they are not to be sprayed on the skin.
    Permanone can be sprayed on clothing. Once it is dry it is
    assumed to be safe. Ticks are anti-gravitational. They are
    generally seeking the highest point. If they get on your body
    below the clothes line, one hopes they will travel up and die
    once they come in contact with treated clothing. Note: If the tick
    meets resistance on its journey to the top of your head it will
    stop and feed at that point. If you are wearing shorts and the tick
    gets stuck in the bend behind your knee the Permanone will not
    be helpful.

    Vaccine – SmithKline Beecham created a Lyme vaccine in
    2001. But, lawsuits were filed which stated it caused arthritis
    and other autoimmune disorders. Due to these complaints and
    lack of public interest pulled it off the market in March, 2002.

    Property protection - Consult with a professional about using
    insecticides on your property to kill ticks. Eliminate tall grass
    especially near a forest edge on your property. Provide a stone
    barrier between tick habitat and your yard.

    Pets and other animal protection - Lyme disease has been
    diagnosed in humans, dogs, cats, horses, goats, and cattle.
    Other species may also be at risk. Lyme disease can affect
    individual pets differently. Some animals may display no
    symptoms. Other animals may develop fever, loss of appetite,
    painful joints, lethargy, and vomiting. If left untreated, the
    spirochete may damage the eyes, heart, kidneys, and nervous
    system. Cats may show lameness, fever, loss of appetite,
    fatigue, eye damage, unusual breathing, or heart involvement.
    Many infected cats do not show noticeable symptoms.Infected
    dogs may be lethargic, have a poor/loss of appetite, or a fever.
    Dogs may also experience lameness shifting from one joint to
    another, fatigue, kidney damage or failure, heart disorders, or
    neurologic involvement (e.g. aggression, confusion, overeating,
    and seizures). Dogs can be infected with the Lyme bacterium
    but not exhibit any noticeable symptoms. Dogs appear to have
    the same expression of disease as humans; therefore,
    humans have been considered an animal model for dogs.
    Transplacental transmission has occurred in dogs.

    Treat pets with proper repellents. Do a thorough tick check on
    your pet before it comes indoors. Save the tick in the refrigerator
    in a sealed container. Keep infected animals away from
    children to reduce chance of their exposure through saliva,
    urine, etc.

    Copyright © 2007 - 2023 Iowa Lyme Disease Association (ILDA).
    All Rights Reserved.

Rash and Other Early Symptoms
Iowa Lyme Disease Association-
P.O. Box 221
Brighton, IA  52540
Email: [email protected]
(left to right)
Black Legged
formerly called
Deer Tick
Dog or Wood Tick
Lone Star Tick
Rashes Vary