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Ticks are the most dangerous arthropods to the American public. Some tick species have always been able to transmit diseases to humans, but ticks have only been considered a major threat to public health for the past couple of decades or so. Certainly, ticks have not always been considered a serious health hazard to humans. However, the reality of disease spreading ticks will have to be faced by Americans, and those living in the northeast have a fair chance of contracting a tick-borne disease by virtue of the high tick populations in the region. Of course, not all ticks spread disease, some merely suck your blood for food. Currently, there exists about eight hundred and fifty documented tick species, and only some of these tick species are capable of transmitting disease. However, just being bitten by a tick is terrifying enough. Ticks are so small that humans rarely consider what ticks are actually doing to their bodies. There is no doubt that if people were more familiar with a tick’s mouthparts, then more people would be freaking-out about ticks in general.

 

According to Kerry Padgett, supervising public health biologist at the California Department of Public Health, ticks are great at burrowing in the skin, but they do not obtain blood-meals in the same way as mosquitoes. A mosquito possesses mouthparts that resemble a hypodermic needle. Given the fact that mosquitoes are bloodsuckers, there anatomy is perfect for sucking blood. Ticks also love human blood, but their mouthparts are outfitted with two sets of sharp hooks that pierce skin. These hooks pull skin apart, allowing ticks to burrow within skin. Once these hook-like appendages pull back skin, a tick will insert its “hypostome” into the wound. The hypostome looks like a chainsaw with hooks along its edges. This appendage acts like a harpoon as it keeps ticks secured to skin. If you have ever wondered why you cannot simply flick a tick off of your skin, the hypostome is the reason. It takes a tick less than twenty four hours to transmit lyme to a human, and they can remain attached to skin for a period lasting as long as ten days.

 

Do you think that another tick-borne disease could become more common in humans than lyme at some point in the future?

 

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