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The Home-Infesting Brown Dog Tick Is Only Able To Transmit Disease To Humans Within A Region Of Arizona

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ticks are the only disease-spreading arthropods in the US that public health officials are unable to control. As most Americans know, ticks are most abundant in the northeast, making tick-borne disease cases particularly frequent in the region. Because of this, most Americans consider residents of the northeast to be at the greatest risk of falling victim to tick-borne diseases. However, very few people are aware of the tick-borne disease threat facing Arizona residents, including Arizona residents themselves.

It may shock Arizonans to learn that they are living within the only state where the brown dog tick species is capable of transmitting disease to humans. In addition to this little-known factoid, the brown dog tick is also the only tick species in the world that is able to reproduce and survive all life-cycles indoors. In other words, Arizona is the only state where brown dog ticks can both spread disease and infest homes. Arizonans should also note that the disease spread by brown dog ticks in Arizona, Rocky Mountain-spotted fever (RMSF), is being transmitted to more and more residents of the state with each passing year. In fact, experts say that RMSF has reached epidemic proportions within the state.

North America is home to two tick species that are commonly referred to as “dog ticks”. The most abundant and medically threatening of these two species, the American dog tick, is well established in the eastern US, but this species exists in many western states as well. This species transmits the potentially fatal disease known as Rocky Mountain spotted-fever to humans in every region where they can be found. The other species, the brown dog tick, is abundant all over the US, but these ticks only spread diseases to dogs and other animals. However, brown dog ticks dwelling in parts of southern Arizona and northern Mexico can, in fact, transmit RMSF to humans in this region, and only in this region. As it happens, the brown dog tick is also the only tick species that can infest homes in large number. So far, brown dog ticks have transmitted RMSF to well over 300 people in Arizona, 21 of which died as a result.

Have you ever spotted a tick embedded within your skin? If so, were you able to identify the species?


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