Retrospective Case Reports of Two Central North Carolina Residents

Frequency of Tick Bites and Associated Illnesses, 2001-2014


BACKGROUND Tick bites are a source of illness and disease agents that may lead to morbidity and occasional fatalities in North Carolina. Public health interest in tick-borne illness and disease has increased due to continuing discoveries of tick-borne diseases and their increasing geographic spread and disease incidence. There are no data published on lay individuals with cumulative tick bites and associated illnesses over a period of years.

METHODS We learned of a married couple living on a central North Carolina property who had used reasonable bite prevention methods, kept attached ticks after removal, and recorded dates and related illness records from 2001–2014. We obtained permission to analyze their records. Ticks were identified by an entomologist.

RESULTS The male subject had a total of 219 bites from identifiable ticks comprising 213 Amblyomma americanum, 4 Dermacentor variabilis, and 2 Ixodes scapularis. He was treated for possible Rocky Mountain spotted fever once and presumed Southern Tick Associated Rash Illness once. The female subject had 193 bites comprising 168 A. americanum, 23 D. variabilis, and 2 I. scapularis. She was treated for 4 episodes of presumed Southern Tick Associated Rash Illness and one possible case of a tick-borne infection. Several years of data were missing for both subjects.

LIMITATIONS This retrospective report relied on the subjects’ own records for much of the data. The experience of these individuals cannot be generalized. Diagnoses of these tick-related illnesses are inexact due to lack of tests for the Southern Tick Associated Rash Illness and cross-reactivity in tests for spotted fever rickettsiosis.

CONCLUSIONS This report demonstrates that tick-associated illnesses, including episodes fitting the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s definition of the Southern Tick Associated Rash Illness, may be more common than realized. Use of personal tick protection measures for tick bite illness and disease prevention may not be sufficiently protective. Further subject-based research on tick and disease burden on selected populations would be informative, and could aid in planning appropriate actions to mitigate the effects of tick-borne disease in North Carolina.