Here in the United States ticks are well known carriers of disease-causing bacteria. While mosquitoes are the most dangerous vectors of disease globally, in America ticks are far more likely than mosquitoes to spread diseases to humans. Although it looks like ticks are mostly an American problem at the moment, some researchers believe that ticks could soon become a public health threat to populations located in every corner of the planet. Ticks are the most widely distributed arthropod vectors on earth. In addition to that, ticks are not choosy about where they find their blood meals, which means that ticks could eventually carry other disease-causing forms of bacteria. In fact, experts are not exactly sure as to how many tick-borne diseases exist. Lyme disease was first described as recently as 1975, which illustrates the lack of scholarship dedicated to the study of tick-borne diseases. Due to the surprising degree of ignorance concerning ticks and the diseases they spread, many public health professionals would be ill-prepared for a global tick-borne disease epidemic if one were to occur in the future.
The number of disease-causing microbes that are carried by ticks is increasing with each passing year. Experts are still in the process of identifying the various forms of disease-causing bacteria that can be carried by ticks. This means that it is possible for people to contract diseases from ticks that have not even been described by scientists. Tick-borne diseases may reach new populations around the globe due to extensive land clearing, like deforestation. All land clearing projects result in higher wildlife populations in urban regions where humans are abundant. As wildlife moves into urban areas, so do the ticks that are feeding on their blood. When tick populations increase in human environments, cases of tick-borne diseases naturally increase as well.
Geographical boundaries are not containing tick populations like they used to since these boundaries are disappearing as a result of increased globalization. Now, ticks can be spread from one side of the planet to another. And of course, climate change is also a factor. Areas that were once too cold for ticks are now becoming temperate enough for their survival. This means that ticks will inevitably migrate into new regions where they will infect new populations with tick-borne diseases. The degree to which humanity has altered the natural environment, coupled with the fact that ticks are relatively understudied, has set humanity on a course where global tick-borne disease epidemics will eventually become a reality.
Considering the degree of danger that ticks pose to the public, are you surprised that ticks are not discussed as often as mosquitoes in the media?
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