Since the 1980s, the most aggressive tick in the Piedmont is the Lone Star. Deer ticks, more frequent along the coast, are uncommon in the piedmont. Dog ticks and wood ticks bite humans less frequently than the Lone Star. Tick bites are less common in the mountains at this point in time. Pets can get these diseases, too. In NC you can become infected with several different diseases through tick bites, sometimes from a single bite. The risk and type of infection varies with location, type of tick, season of the year, and the prevalence of the disease causing organisms in the various kinds of ticks. The prevalence of the various types of ticks that bite humans across North Carolina and the proportion that harbor disease causing bacteria in various parts of the state has not been studied in a systematic manner.
NC Ticks Most Likely to Bite Humans
Click on the images below to view our educational slide shows about these ticks.
Lone Star Tick
Transmits ehrlichiosis, Southern Lyme (STARI), tularemia, tick paralysis, and possibly Lyme disease and babesiosis in NC.
American Dog Tick
Transmits Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, tick paralysis, tularemia, and possibly ehrlichiosis.
Brown Dog Tick
Transmits ehrlichiosis and babesiosis, and possibly Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
Deer Tick or Black-legged Tick
Transmits Lyme disease, babesiosis, erhlichiosis, bartonella, and possibly Powassan encephalitis and tick-borne encephalitis (viral).
Gulf Coast Tick
Medical controversy about Lyme disease, caused by the spirochetal bacteria Borrelia burgdorfori, has existed for years. Issues included in the controversy include virtually every aspect of the disease – epidemiology, the ticks and transmission, diagnostic tests and other diagnostic criteria, how to treat, how long to treat, whether chronic Lyme disease exists, and, if so, how to treat it, whether sexual transmission can occur, and, recently, if more than one species of the bacteria can transmit disease in the United States.
Little is known to date about what is called the southern form of Lyme-like disease (currently called STARI) which is transmitted by lone star ticks. The spirochete, Borrelia lonestarii, which is related to the Lyme disease bacteria, is no longer thought to be responsible. A 2013 study has implicated other Borrelia in the Lyme disease family but further studies are needed. Lone star ticks are now found as far north as Maine and into the west.
The reasons for the depth of the medical and political controversy are complex and may include conflicts among scientists and studies, insurance companies’ fear of long-term payments, tourist industry concerns, economic ties, issues put forth by Lyme activists, and many others.