Even though winter weather has been ramping up, I’ve been finding ticks on the horses recently and am vigilant about removing them as soon as I find them. The problem is, I forgot to check me.
This nasty little bug was on my back, probably for several days. Safely out of sight, he gorged himself until my husband found it.
So, what are the chances of getting Lyme disease from a tick? Given how many ticks I’ve pulled off the horses, only twice have I had to treat a horse for a tick borne disease. Freedom has twice been diagnosed with an active Lyme infection.
As it turns out, the chance of catching Lyme disease from an individual tick ranges from zero to roughly 50 percent, according to Mather. The exact probability depends on three factors: the tick species, where it came from and how long the tick was feeding.
Lyme disease is carried by deer ticks. In the Northeast, where I live, up to 50% of deer ticks are carrying Lyme disease. That’s among the highest infection rates, although it’s lower than I’d imagined. Other diseases carried by deer ticks are Babesiosis (also called Nantucket fever), Ehrlichiosis and Anaplasmosis. Guess what? Your disease-carrying tick can infect you with several of these bacteria, not just one!
How long the tick is attached also determines if you become infected. However, the estimates for the infection time vary. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that:
In most cases, the tick must be attached for 36 to 48 hours or more before the Lyme disease bacterium can be transmitted.
Alison Hinckley, a CDC epidemiologist specializing in Lyme disease, said several studies show that a tick “needs to be attached for 48 to 72 hours to even be able to transmit the infection to a person.”
In my case, the tick was attached for several days, so if the tick was infected, the likelihood of transmission was reasonably high.
I had my tick removed by my doctor, who prescribed antibiotics. The tick has been sent off to a lab to be tested but given the high risk factors of my bite (in addition, I have a history of bacterial infections that can get out of control quickly), it seems like the safest course of action.
Many, many of my friends and family members who live in New England have been diagnosed with Lyme, including my husband. He had the classic bulls eye rash (which I don’t(. But then again, the only other time I was diagnosed with Lyme disease, I never saw the tick and I never had the rash. I caught it early because of the swelling around the bite, which prompted a doctor’s visit.
So, when you’re checking your dog or horse for ticks (cats don’t get Lyme disease), don’t forget to check yourself.