Tick-borne illnesses on the rise in Middle Tennessee - WSMV Channel 4

Tick-borne illnesses on the rise in Middle Tennessee

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

It's a disease that can be deadly if left untreated. Rocky Mountain spotted fever cases are popping up across the Midstate. It's caused by ticks.

Doctors are seeing more reported cases of tick-borne illnesses as we enter the summer months.

Many experts are pointing to a warmer winter, saying the tick population didn't die off. Once the weather started warming up, the ticks were on the move.

Amy Dismukes is an entomologist with the University of Tennessee. She's also currently recovering from Lyme disease.

“I found out about a week and a half ago,” Dismukes said. “Fever, my neck hurt really bad, very bad headaches, joint issues.”

Dismukes said she's heard of several cases of not only Lyme disease, but Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

“We’ve got two folks in Jackson, one in Memphis and another in Tennessee that have all come down with Rocky Mountain spotted fever,” she said. “They're all pretty bad, and they can take you down pretty quick.”

Dr. Ty Babcock is an urgent care physician. He diagnosed his first case of Lyme disease in February, several months earlier than usual.

“Yes, we diagnose Lyme disease all the time,” Babcock said. “Most of the time, it's someone who has traveled to the northeast, or the central part of the United States where they actually caught the Lyme disease.”

Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever are bacterial infections spread by ticks. The disease is only transmitted through a tick bite, and is treated with antibiotics.

Rocky Mountain spotted fever also brings flu-like symptoms including fatigue, severe headache and a high fever.

“If left untreated, it can cause permanent damage to the heart and blood vessels and to the joints,” Babcock said. “It tends to be more rapidly progressive than Lyme disease and is more often fatal if left untreated.”

Only 25 percent of the people who are treated for Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever actually remember being bit by a tick.

If you're having flu-like symptoms, doctors say get checked out.

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