Arthropod-Borne Diseases: The Camper's Uninvited Guests

Microbiol Spectr. 2015 Aug;3(4). doi: 10.1128/microbiolspec.IOL5-0001-2014.


Arthropod-borne diseases are a major problem whenever outdoor activities bring arthropods and people into contact. The arthropods discussed here include arachnids (ticks) and insects. Most arthropod bites and stings are minor, with the notable exception being bee-sting anaphylaxis. Ticks cause the most disease transmission. Key hard tick vectors include black-legged (Ixodes), dog (Dermacentor), and lone star (Amblyomma) ticks, which transmit Lyme and various rickettsial diseases. Insect repellents, permethrin sprays, and proper tick inspection reduce this risk significantly. Lyme disease and the milder southern-tick-associated rash illness (STARI) are characterized by the erythema migrans rash followed, in the case of Lyme disease, by early, disseminated, and late systemic symptoms. Treatment is with doxycycline or ceftriaxone. Indefinite treatment of "chronic Lyme disease" based on subjective symptoms is not beneficial. Rickettsial diseases include ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which are characterized by fever, headache, and possible rash and should be empirically treated with doxycycline while awaiting laboratory confirmation. Tularemia is a bacterial disease (Francisella) spread by ticks and rabbits and characterized by fever and adenopathy. Treatment is with gentamicin or streptomycin. Babesiosis is a protozoal disease, mimicking malaria, that causes a self-limited flu-like disease in healthy hosts but can be life threatening with immune compromise. Treatment is with atovaquone and azithromycin. Other tick-related conditions include viral diseases (Powassan, Colorado tick fever, heartland virus), tick-borne relapsing fever (Borrelia), and tick paralysis (toxin). Mosquitoes, lice, fleas, and mites are notable for their annoying bites but are increasingly significant disease vectors even in the United States.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arthropods / microbiology
  • Arthropods / parasitology
  • Arthropods / physiology*
  • Arthropods / virology
  • Bacterial Infections / epidemiology*
  • Bacterial Infections / microbiology
  • Camping
  • Disease Vectors
  • Humans
  • Parasitic Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Parasitic Diseases / parasitology
  • Virus Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Virus Diseases / virology