This is the second largest order (insects are first!) of plants and animals. Most experts believe there are over one million species of these arachnids that occupy nearly every ecological niche. For example, almost anyone reading this program is currently infested with mites. There is a small mite that lives in hair follicles and the sebaceous glands of the nose. They are harmless and should be of little concern. There are even mites that live in the lung cavity of the common garden snail and, unlike insects, mites occupy many areas of the ocean. The mites and ticks can be readily distinguished from other arachnids by their sac-like body. The abdomen is not distinctly segmented and is joined broadly to the cephalothorax. The mouthparts of these small critters are primarily for piercing a host and then sucking up juices.

Mites generally are quite small (most are smaller than a grain of sand). Some are microscopic. Because of the large number of species in this group, almost every conceivable feeding habit is exhibited. Mites are not only found in almost every ecological habitat, they are one of the most common creatures on earth. The basic life cycle of mites and ticks is egg, larva, nymph and adult.  The larval and nymphal stages look like smaller versions of the adult; however, the larvae bear only 6 legs each while the nymphs and adults bear 8.

Entomophobia and Delusory Parasitosis. These two distinct phenomena are both based on the fear of small creepy creatures. As the name implies, entomophobia is the fear of insects. Based on a national survey, the fear of insects is ranked third in adults—closely behind the fear of public speaking and death. The fear of cockroaches is frequently ranked number one in the insect world although, but I am sure bedbugs may be approaching their status or higher.  The fear of insects is a learned response. Very few children are afraid of insects unless they learn to be so by their parents, movies, or other sources. Because this is a learned response, this type of fear frequently can be reversed—sometimes with very little effort.

We have found that exposure to reptiles and insects is often enough to "unlearn" this fear. Once a young person can be persuaded to hold a walking stick and then to look into its "cute little face, they are halfway to undoing an acquired fear of all 6 legged animals. We have observed this behavior time and again due to our activity with youth fairs and other such public events. The annual county fair in Orange County, California has provided us the opportunity to educate children on a very large scale. Parents often know their own fear is irrational and don’t want to pass it along to their kids Therefore, the child’s acceptance often has a secondary benefit in that the parent accepts the animal as well. Once we plop a scorpion, python, or tarantula into the arms of a young person, the parent will usually take a deep breath and then accepts the animal.  Parents don't want their kid to think they are big "sissies."

We once participated in a youth exposition where management sent us a teenage girl to help out. Being deathly afraid of snakes, she probably was not the best volunteer for our type of exhibit! She assured us she would be all right as long as she didn’t have to go near anything reptilian. After a short period of time, she ventured a small caress down the back of our most beautiful snake. Then she had us hold its head so she could feel what the body felt like. Then she bravely held the whole snake. The snake, responding to a warm body in a cold room, coiled delicately around her arm and cuddled right up. By the end of the day, she wanted to take it home with her. For most people, this intimacy experienced with the previously feared insect or snake is enough to overcome many years (sometimes decades) of learned terror.

Delusory parasitosis is an irrational fear of small creepy non-existent creatures. Because mites are so small, in many cases this condition is diagnosed as a mite infestation. This phenomenon is more common than one might expect. Frequently, people who are inflicted with this malady are quite normal in all other phases of life and lead productive lives.

I was quite unaware of this phenomenon until one day a man in his mid-40 walked into my office and indicated that the UCLA Medical Center had referred him to me. He indicated that he and his home were infested with small 'bugs' that he could not eradicate. After a short discussion, he reached out into the air and indicated I had them in my office also. I responded that he must have brought them with him. He further stated that he had captured some and placed them on a piece of scotch tape. He related collecting each ‘critter.’ The first had bitten him on the leg and then disappeared under his skin, but he dug it out with a sewing needle. The second was on his pants cuff and bit him on the ankle. The third was found swimming around in his toothpaste. After considerable discussion, we examined each 'critter' with a microscope. Needless to say, none resembled an insect or mite. Indeed, they were small grains of sand, pieces of lint and so on. However, even after this close inspection and working with him over a several-week-period, he could not be persuaded that the attacking creatures were imaginary. The situation became so bad that he convinced his wife that she was also infested. They had arguments over who had the most. They couldn't get them out of their home even though several exterminators were called. Because of the infestation, the home was eventually sold at a considerable loss. Partly because of the turmoil, their marriage ended in divorce.

There have been many similar situations since then. One of the most unusual occurred a few years ago when a city official from Mission Viejo (Orange County) called me and indicated that he had a whole neighborhood infested with scabies mites (see below). Scabies are parasitic mites that commonly infest humans. At the time, this didn’t seem questionable because a number of the people had been to medical doctors and had been treated for this mite. These treatments didn’t seem to solve the problem, and I was brought in as a consultant. The main problem was centered on one particular resident. This woman apparently had convinced much of the neighborhood of the widespread infestation. She was using very drastic measures to try to eliminate these mites from her house and family. She would use lye to scrub down the beds on a weekly basis. On several occasions, she washed her kids down with gasoline. Of course upon hearing this, I began to realize that the whole situation was more than a little irrational. The final clincher was when she indicated that the whole problem started when she brought a potted plant back from Arizona, and while it was sitting in her bathroom, a pod grew out of it and blew these tiny critters all over the neighborhood.

A colleague from NCSU, Mike Waldvogel, reports similar experiences. He states he has received a variety of imaginary critters in vacuum cleaner bags, pillows cases, panty hose, skin samples, glue boards (like the one you use for catching mice) and (the one he described as the ultimate) a bottle (formerly a pint gin bottle) that was labeled "after douching." Needless to say that one wasn’t opened! Neither were the vacuum cleaner bags as they usually contain pesticide-laden dust from over treated carpets for these so called pests.

All of these cases have had several symptoms in common. The 'critters' typically fly through the air, crawl on the skin, frequently appear and disappear in the skin, make clicking noises and can be found in soap and toothpaste. Generally, inflicted individuals have gone to several medical doctors to no avail and can almost never be persuaded that the pests are imaginary.

Recently I started an expert witness website with the idea working on some court cases.  That worked out OK but with success came some problems. I receive about one phone call a week from the general public about bird mite infestations.  Unfortunately, bird mites have become a big thing on the internet.  Apparently, once one person writes about a so called infestation of these critters in her or his home it catches on.  Needless to say 95% of the infestations that I hear about are strictly delusory parasitosis. To a person, all these callers are sure they have a bird mite infestation and cannot be convince otherwise.  I frequently ask them to send samples which turn out to be nothing. I generally tell these people send me something that they can see moving.  Their response is" that according to the internet they are invisible to the naked eye".  Actually bird mites are small but clearly visible.

Scabies and Mange Mites. Sarcoptes scabei is a parasitic mite that attacks a wide variety of mammals; however, there are many varieties with each type being host-specific. For example, the variety of scabies that attacks humans does not infest other animals. Similarly, the scabies mites that attack dogs do no infest humans.  The human scabies mite is almost invisible to the naked eye (about 1/60 inch), cylindrical in shape, and has golf tee-shaped suckers on the tips of the legs.

 Female Human Sarcoptic Mange Mite (Sarcoptes scabei) Greatly Magnified. Image Courtesy of CDC Healthwise Photo Library.

The life cycles of male and female human scabies mites are somewhat different. A young fully developed female adult will crawl over the body until reaching soft, wrinkly skin and within a few minutes bores inward forming a tunnel about 3/4" in length and parallel to the surface of the skin. She feeds on the host's (you) body juices and lays eggs (up to 20 per female) in the burrow.  If closely inspected, mature females can be seen in the burrows.  As a result of this activity, pimple-like structures develop which eventually rupture after a day or two and release the eggs on the skin. Once hatched, the larval and nymphal stages crawl over the skin and periodically feed in sebaceous glands and hair follicles. Male mites also feed in these areas. It takes about two weeks to complete the life cycle from egg to adult.

Acquisition of this mite is typically by skin-to-skin contact with an infested individual. Such contact may be quite incidental such as holding hands. Very commonly, these mites are acquired from children and it is not unusual via sexually contact. On rare occasions, scabies mites are acquired via bedding or furnishings, but these mites can only survive for a few days off its human host.

When someone is infested, the majority of these mites (63%) are found on the hands between the fingers and wrists and approximately 11% on the elbows. In women, the mites are often found burrowing beneath and around the breasts and nipples. In young children, the mites can be found all over the body and frequently on the legs.


Top/Left. Close-up Photo of a Scabies Burrow. The Large Scaly Patch at the Left is due to Scratching. The Scabies Mite Traveled Toward the Upper Right and Can be Seen at the End of the Burrow-Round in Appearance. Image Courtesy Michael Geary Public Domain.  Top/Right. Symptoms of Scabies Infestation on Hand. Image Courtesy Steschke CC BY-SA 3.0. Bottom. Common Locations of Symptoms-Marked in Red. Image Courtesy Steschke CC BY SA-3.0.

There are no obvious symptoms for the first 30 days after infestation.  However, an intense rash and itching begins to occur over many areas of the body. These can occur even in areas where the mites are not found. The itch is characteristically more severe at night and affects the trunk and limbs. It does not usually affect the scalp. Itching can become so intense that the infested individuals lose sleep and can be affected mentally. Blisters and pustules on the palms and soles are characteristic of scabies in infants.  Secondary infections commonly complicate the signs of the presence of these mites and can results in crusty patches and scratched pustules.  After about 100 days, the mite population drops off and, symptoms of the infestation begin to disappear.

Treatment consists of elimination of the mites from the body and treatment of recently worn clothing and bedding. The mites are totally host dependent and cannot live off the host for more than a day or two. Pesticide lotions can be used to kill those mites on the body.  Kwell lotion was the standard for control for many years.  However, due to possible negative side effects of the active ingredient, it has been mostly replaced with more effective products. Permethrin cream is now the most commonly recommended treatment lotion. Recently used clothing or bedding should be laundered, ironed or sealed in large plastic bags for a few days. Symptoms will not disappear completely for a few weeks after the mites are eliminated.  This is significant because it is not a good idea to over-treat an infestation of these mites.  One of our grandkids contacted scabies and the kids next door had the same problem.  We instructed the neighbor how to treat her kids.  A week later, she indicated that the symptoms had not disappeared and wanted to retreat her kids. This is not a good idea as exposing children too frequently to the prescribed pesticide lotion can lead to over medication.  Therefore, it’s important to know and to follow the directions for such direct contact treatments.

It should be mentioned that medical doctors frequently misdiagnose scabies mite infestations. As discussed above, several of the neighbors of the lady suffering from delusory parasitosis were convinced by her that they had scabies and were actually diagnosed and treated for them. I was once suffering from itching of the skin and went to a M. D. who immediately, upon hearing my symptom, stated that I had scabies and prescribed Kwell. I told him that I really didn’t have any of the other symptoms other than itching. His response was "sometimes there are no other symptoms," which may or may not be true. The point is that he didn’t even look at me. Upon hearing "itching" he stepped back about two feet (they are fairly contagious) and muttered "scabies.” After using the Kwell with no relief, I consulted a dermatologist who correctly diagnosed my problem as dry skin.

I was recently contacted by a convalescent home about a scabies infestation. They had approximately 100 patients, half of which were diagnosed with scabies.  This was a real problem.  Public Health had quarantined the hospital because this is a communicable disease.  Of course this was devastating and confusing to the older residents as well. Their relatives couldn’t visit them. The people who worked there were very concerned and fearful that they might carry the disease home with them and give it to their own families.

With this in mind, the hospital wanted me to come up with a viable treatment program.Treatment was several folds.  Everyone involved had to be treated with Kwell lotion-the chemical that at that time was preferred. Treatment included all the patients and individuals who worked there due to the fact that symptoms of an active infestation do not appear immediately. There was no need to treat the premises itself because the mites are host-dependent and can only live off the host for a day or two. However, recently worn clothing and bedding had to be treated as a potential source of infestation. We considered sending these to a commercial laundry, but that created the potential of infesting the individuals who worked there.  Instead, we took all the clothing and bed sheets and sealed them in large trash bags for 3 days keeping in mind that the mites can only survive off the host for a day or two.

House Dust Mites. These are not visible to the naked eye and are not typically found in house dust. These arachnids feed on human dander (sloughed skin) and thus are found in areas of the home where this material accumulates such as in beds or sofas. They tend to be more common in humid areas and where cotton is used as stuffing in furniture. House dust mites do not bite but have been implicated in certain types of allergies in humans. These arachnids at one time or another infest most homes in many parts of the country.

Common House Dust Mite Greatly Magnified. Image Courtesy of ARS.

One major mattress companies has an advertisement on TV that states that the weight of an average mattress in the U.S. doubles in 10 years as it fill up with house dust mites. They also claim that their mattresses are built so well that these mites cannot get inside them.  Both of these statements are ridiculous. First of all house dust mites do not get inside mattresses and if they wanted to I doubt that they would have any problem considering their size. Secondly, a queen size mattress weighs around 60 pounds. Sixty pounds of house dust mites would be in the billions and there is no way there would be enough food (dead skin) to support a population of that size.

Chiggers. This is a group of mites that are parasitic on humans, turtles, snakes, chickens, rabbits, and many other animals. Adults and nymphal chiggers are typically free-ranging scavengers associated with the soil and commonly are found in grasslands meadows and wooded areas. Chiggers are present in Southern California but are much more common in the southeastern United States and many tropical areas of the world.

An Adult Chigger. Image Courtesy Susan Ellis, Bugwood.

There was an occasion when a pilot was flying at an elevation of around 1,700 feet when he spotted a reddish color covering approximately 2 acres. Upon landing, he surprisingly discovered a heavy emergence of the giant red velvet chigger adult (each about the size of a large dot).  Keeping in mind that these mites are “giant,” but no larger than the size of an o on this page, the estimated population was approximately 3 to 5 million with an average of 50 mites per 4 inch square.

Chigger eggs are typically deposited in clusters in the soil or under rocks. Upon hatching, the parasitic larvae accumulate on stones, vegetation, or other object and wait for a passing host. Chiggers and other ectoparasites recognize a host by 3 means. These are the host’s movement, heat and odor in the form of carbon dioxide. Chigger larvae are extremely small and less than 1/150th of an inch in diameter.  Several thousand of them could line up across this page and still leave room for 2 or 3 hundred more. At this size, chigger larvae are almost invisible to the naked eye. However, when several chiggers cluster together on the victim body near an elastic waistband or wristwatch, they can be seen because of their bright red color.

One of the common misconceptions is that the larvae of these mites burrow under the skin and ultimately die within the tissues thus resulting in persistent itch.  These tiny larvae attach by inserting their minute mouth parts into skin depressions, skin pores, wrinkle or hair follicles. Their mouthparts are tiny, short and delicate and can penetrate only thin skin or skin wrinkles or folds. Typically, chigger bites are found behind the knees, on the ankles, near the crotch, beneath the belt line and in armpits. Of course this is mainly because these are areas of the body where the skin is soft and are not located high on the body. The insertion of the mouthparts is not felt or the source causing itching. A feeding chigger usually goes unnoticed for 1 to 2 hours after attached.  While feeding, the chigger injects powerful digestive saliva which after a few hours causes the skin to react and form a hard tube-like structure called a stylostome. This structure walls off the corrosive saliva, but it also functions like a feeding tube for the chigger larva. The larval mouthparts are attached to the stylostome, and like a person drinking a milk shake through a straw, allows the larva sucks up liquefied body tissue. The chigger continues alternately injecting saliva into the bite and sucking dissolved liquid body tissue.  Irritation and inflammation of the surrounding tissue is the result of the presence of the stylostome. The longer and deeper the chigger feeds, the deeper the stylostome grows, and the larger the welt will eventually become. Individuals see a small red dot inside a welt (usually under a water blister), but this is the stylostome tube and not the larval body. bite.svg

Chigger Life Cycle and Larva Feeding Vis Stylosome. Images Courtesy Bugboy 52.4 Public Domain.

If undisturbed, these mites typically require a few days or longer completing a feeding.  In the case of humans, chiggers typically do not finish feeding since they are accidentally brushed or scratched away by the victim prior to completion of the meal. The characteristic intense itching reaches a peak a few days after the bite occurs. This is the result of the stylostome remaining inside thr tissue long after the chigger larva has dropped off the host. The skin may continue to itch for many days due to an allergic reaction to stylostome. The stylostome is eventually absorbed by the body. This is a relatively slow process that can take week or longer.

One opinion is that females and children are bitten more commonly than men. However, it is documented that all 3 typically collect equal numbers of chiggers while walking in the woods.  However, women and children typically have thinner skin and as a result have more acceptable surface areas that chiggers can easily bite.

The first technique to avoid against chigger attack is to wear the right kind of clothing. Tightly woven socks, high shoes or boots and long sleeves and pants are preferable to sandals, shorts and the like. Tucking pant legs inside boots or shoes and buttoning cuffs and collars in shirts also helps keep the chiggers off the body. Regular mosquito repellents will repel chiggers. All brands are equally effective but the higher the concentration of the active ingredient of DEET, the more effective is the product. These products can be applied to exposed skin and around the edge of openings in your clothes, such as cuffs, waistbands, shirt fronts and boot tops.  Unfortunately, many of these repellents are only potent for two to three hours and must be reapplied frequently.

People who live in chigger-infested areas may develop immunity to the bite of these arachnids. Humans who have been exposed to chigger bites over a period of years may develop a hypersensitivity to their saliva. Hence, when they are newly bitten, a huge tissue hardening occurs (rather than the feeding tube) that immediately prevents further penetration of the skin; thus, little saliva is injected and no further symptoms may occur.

Ear Mites. This is a group of parasitic mites that attack a variety of animals (cats, dogs and rabbits). In these animals, infestations are limited to the ears and the mites are typically found feeding in the outer ear canals. As do most parasitic arthropods, ear mites are host-specific and no species attack humans. In rabbits, infestations can become serious if left uncontrolled.  The result can be bleeding, secondary infection and possible death. In rabbits, an infestation is easily recognized by a layer of dried ooze on the inner side of the ear. If this crusty ooze is removed, large numbers of mites can be found feeding on ear tissue.

As discussed, ear mites are common in dogs and cats. Young animals appear to be more susceptible to the feeding of these arachnids. Typical symptoms include frequent shaking of the head, lowered ears (in cats), and black coloration in the outer ear canal (this gives the appearance that the animal has very dirty ears). In all cases, a few applications of several drops of mineral oil to the infested area will give considerable relief and control. Most veterinarians suggest this should be followed by applications of medications specifically used for ear mite control. It should also be noted that bacterial and fungal infections of the ears result in similar symptoms.

Human Follicle Mites. Follicle mites are long and skinny with short legs. These microscopic mites infest a number species of mammals and exhibit have a high degree of host specificity (i.e., mites from one host species will not infest other species). The majority of humans are infested with Demodex folliculorum. They are commonly found living in hair follicles and sebaceous (oil) glands, especially on the face (in and around the eyes, nose, and forehead). In cases where these mites are a problem, they are most often associated with skin rashes, ache and loss of hair (particularly the eyelashes).

In other animals, infections with these mites can be a serious problem.  Dogs that are infected with Demodex canis (the dog follicle mite) can result in a condition called red or canine demodectic mange.  This can result in significant loss of hair and skin rashes.  In severe cases infected dogs may be euthanized.

 A Human Follicle Mite.  Image Courtesy of Life Science Department, University of South Africa.

Phytophagus Mites. These are a large group of mites that are plant feeders (phytophagous). The most common type of these is spider mites that typically feed on the undersides of leaves by puncturing the plant surface with their mouthparts and sucking plant juices. These are not only a major pest of many agricultural crops but also attack most types of houseplants.

The most obvious symptom of feeding by spider mites in the early stages of an infestation is a fine speckling that appears on the upper surface of the leaf. As the infestation advances, fine webbing results. Generally, by that point, the plant is beyond saving.

Cotton Leaf with Typical Spotting due to Feeding of Phytophagus Mites. Right Image Greatly Magnified Spider or Two Spotted Mite.  Image Courtesy of ARS.

The main predators of spider mites are other mite species. It is therefore important to be able to distinguish predatory mites from phytophagous forms. As with other arthropod groups, predators are quite fast while plant feeding forms move slowly or are nearly stationary. A good rule of thumb is if you can easily see it moving, it is a predatory mite. Plant feeding mites are best controlled with an acaracide. Some degree of control may be achieved by periodically washing the mites off the plant with a mild soapy water solution.

Phoretic Mites. Phoresy refers to the process of “hitchhiking” that occurs mainly in the arthropod world. This process typically is the result of the development of unfavorable environmental conditions. Phoresy is common in small, flightless arthropods that are not readily capable of changing their environment. In these cases, they merely attach to other arthropods (especially flies and beetles), go for a ride and drop off when encountering more favorable environments. Because of their small sized and absence of wings mites and pseudoscorpions hitchhike on larger insects.

Phoretic Mites on Fly and Harvestman. Image from left to right Courtesy of Alvesgaspar GNU Free Documentation. Soebe - German Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.

Ticks.  Ticks are of considerable economic importance. They suck blood and vector a number of diseases to humans and other animals. These arachnids may be distinguished from mites by their large size and leathery exoskeleton.

 Typical Hard Tick Prior to Feeding. Image Dr. Kaae

There two families of tick are the hard and soft ticks. The soft ticks almost exclusively attack birds and are of minimal concern to the general public. Hard and soft ticks pass through 4 developmental stages. The eggs of most hard ticks are deposited in clusters in protected locations such as in the soil; there may be as many as 7000 eggs in a single cluster. Upon hatching, the 6-legged larvae (seed ticks) crawl up on vegetation or other structures and wait for a passing host. Once attached to a host, they burrow their heads below the skin and begin to suck blood. Hard ticks feed to engorgement swelling with blood to many times their original size. They feed continuously for a day or more before dropping to the soil and eventually molting into the eight-legged nymph. The nymphal and adult stages repeat the process of waiting for a host and feeding to engorgement. The female adult requires a large blood meal in order to produce her massive number of eggs.

File:Ixodid wynaad.jpgIxodes ricinus (engorged)

Top. Hard Tick Fully Engorged with the Blood of its Hosts. Image Courtesy Richard Bartz. CC BY-SA 2.5. Bottom Image Courtesy of L. Shyamal CC SA 3.0.

The length of development from egg to adult with most hard ticks depends primarily on the availability of food and requires anywhere from a few months to longer than a year. The larval or nymphal stages may have to wait for up to several months for a passing host. Apparently this has little effect on survival as these stages generally can live 300 or more days without feeding.

Most ticks require separate hosts to complete their life cycle and are referred to (surprise!) as 3-host ticks. A few species will remain on or near the same host during the larval and nymphal stages but seek another host during the adult stage and are referred to as 2-host ticks. One-host ticks spend all 3 stages on the same type of host.

The brown dog tick is probably the most widely distributed tick species occurring throughout the United States and in much of the world. This species is found in both tropical and temperate climates. It is a 3-host tick and prefers to feed on dogs; however, it occasionally feeds on other animals such as horses, cattle, and (rarely) humans. This species is unique in that it is commonly found and breeds in protected locations such as homes and kennels. Unfortunately, it is not that uncommon to encounter large infestations in homes. 

The authors encountered a huge infestation of this tick in a one-bedroom apartment; the owner had gone on vacation and left a German shepherd in a kennel. An impregnated female tick attached itself to the dog and was brought home. The tick dropped off the dog and deposited from 2000 to 3000 eggs in the house. Because the ticks had a continuous source of food (the dog) and a favorable environment, development was fast. Over 400 ticks were vacuumed from the living room. Because the preferred host was present (the dog), none of the residents were bitten. However, ticks commonly were found crawling around the apartment and frequently were squashed accidentally thus leaving blood spots on the furniture and beige rug.

The wood tick is another 3-host species that commonly occurs in the forested areas and scrubland of California and other western states. It commonly attacks humans and is the main vector of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. The disease is occasionally found in the Rocky Mountain States but rarely occurs in California. Besides vectoring Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in the Rocky Mountains states, the feeding of female wood ticks around the cranial areas occasionally results in tick paralysis in humans and other animals. This paralytic condition is the result of injection of the tick' saliva. It can be fatal with excessive feeding, but normally once the tick is removed, recovery is complete.

If a tick is pulled off the host while it is feeding, its mouthparts may be left in the wound and a secondary infection or blood poisoning could result. The basic premise behind proper tick removal is to provoke the tick to withdraw its mouthparts. It was once thought that touching a hot match or needle to the back of the abdomen was an effective means of tick removal. This technique is no longer recommended as it may cause the tick to regurgitate which can transmit disease causing organisms. Today, coating the tick for a short time in Vaseline or careful removal with forceps are the recommended methods.

Lyme Disease. This disease was first diagnosed in 1969 in the United States in Old Lyme, Connecticut. It now occurs in 43 states. Nationwide it has quickly increased from 2,300 human cases in 1986 to 7,400 in 1989. Since then the number of cases in the United States has increased steadily.  Lyme disease has not been found in Southern California, but is prevalent in Northern California and in the eastern United States. In California the western black legged-deer tick is the primary vector of this disease.

The symptoms of Lyme disease initially include a rash which develops anywhere on the body from 3 to 30 days after the initial bite. Shortly after, large doughnut shaped blotches typically develop at the site of the bite. Weeks to months later a number of chronic conditions may occur.  These include malfunction of the limbs, facial paralysis, heart abnormalities, arthritis, migratory pain in the joints and deterioration of the bones.

 Typical Early Symptom of Lyme Disease-Donut Shaped Rash.  Image Courtesy of CDC Healthwise Photo Library.

This disease rarely results in death, but if it is allowed to advance can be debilitating indefinitely. It is important to be able to diagnose this disease during the initial symptoms. If so, it can be treated successfully with antibiotics. Treatment is much less successful in the advanced stages. In states where this disease is prevalent, it is best to apply repellents (OFF) around the ankles and pant cuffs while in those areas where ticks are found. The authors know several individuals from Southern California who contracted the disease. In their cases, the disease was contracted in the Eastern U.S. or in Northern California. An important factor is that when they came back to Southern California, their doctors had a rather difficult time diagnosing the disease as they had not seen very many cases.


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