Ticks are parasitic, blood-feeding arachnids (eight-legged invertebrate animals similar to spiders). They consume the blood of people and animals and feed by attaching to a host with their mouth parts.
Ticks feed on the blood of their host and will feed on mammals, birds and sometimes even reptiles or amphibians. They wait in tall grass and shrubs and grab onto potential hosts as they move through the brush.
Once a tick finds a host, it crawls to a good spot to feed and then buries its mouthparts in the host’s flesh. As it eats, its body slowly enlarges to accommodate the blood it’s eating. Ticks may feed from several minutes to several days.
In Washington state, ticks carry very few diseases and very few instances of disease are reported compared to other states, but they have been known to cause the following diseases in Washington.
Lyme disease is a bacterial disease transmitted to animals and humans by the bite of certain ticks infected with the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. In Washington, Lyme disease can be transmitted through the bite of a western blacklegged tick. These ticks live in forested or brushy areas of western Washington. This species of tick has not been found in eastern Washington. Symptoms include a bullseye-shaped rash and fatigue, headache and fever. Learn more.
Tick-borne relapsing fever is a bacterial infection that causes recurring periods of fever and is transmitted by the soft tick, which picks up the bacteria from rodents. Periods of fever last two to seven days, disappear for four to 14 days, and then recur again. Between one and 12 cases occur in Washington each year.
Transmitted by the American dog tick or the Rocky Mountain wood tick, Rocky Mountain Spotted fever may cause fever, nausea, vomiting, muscle pain, lack of appetite, and severe headache. These symptoms are often accompanied by a rash, abdominal pain, joint pain and diarrhea. Zero to three cases occur in Washington each year.
Tick paralysis is a progressive condition that typically starts with muscle weakness in the legs, loss of coordination, numbness and difficulty standing or walking. Paralysis symptoms progress to the abdomen, back and chest. If the tick is not removed, paralysis can extend to the chest muscle and lead to respiratory failure and death within 24 to 48 hours after symptoms start. Complete recovery is usually possible once the tick is removed. From 1990 to 2011, 12 cases of tick paralysis were reported.
Tularemia can be transmitted by different means; in Washington, it can be spread by the Rocky Mountain wood tick or the American dog tick. Symptoms include sudden fever, swollen lymph nodes, headache and a skin ulcer near the bite. One to 10 cases of tularemia are reported in Washington each year.
Spread by western black-legged ticks, anaplasmosis may cause headache, fever, chills and muscle aches. No cases in humans have been reported in Washington state, but it has been diagnosed in dogs.
Babesiosis typically causes chills, fatigue, fever, muscle pain and anemia. In Washington, Babesiosis is generally believed to be transmitted by the Western black-legged tick.
In other parts of the United States, ticks also transmit: Borrelia mayonni, Borrelia miyamotoi, Bourbon virus, Colorado tick fever, Ehrlichiosis, Heartland virus, Powassan disease, Ricketssia parkeri rickettsiosis, STARI (Southern tick-associated rash illness), and 364D rickettsiosis. Visit the CDC’s Tickborne Diseases of the United States page to learn more.
Ticks | Washington State DOH | https://www.doh.wa.gov/Communi...
Ticks are most active in warmer months, so it’s especially important to be vigilant during those times.
Ticks position themselves in brush and grasses, waiting to grab onto passing people or animals. Once they grab on, they crawl to a feeding spot on the host’s body and bury their mouthparts into the skin to eat blood.
Below are simple steps people can take to avoid picking up a tick when engaging in outdoor activities.
It’s also important to prevent ticks from coming indoors to find hosts. Here are a few ways to keep ticks from sneaking in on their own.
See the fact sheet for more ideas.
If a tick has already bitten, the best thing to do is promptly remove it.
Download the fact sheet for more information.
There is a lot of misinformation about the best ways to remove a tick. Do not use hot matches or coat the tick with oil, petroleum jelly, soap or nail polish to get the tick to detach. This typically doesn’t work and may irritate the tick which will cause it to release more saliva, which may in-turn, increase the likelihood of getting sick.