Researchers at the University of Tennessee's Center for Wildlife Health say Tennessee is becoming a sort of "meeting place" for different varieties of ticks, a tangible result of a changing climate. Each new species of tick brings its own bacteria and viruses, complicating the task of diagnosing and treating tick-borne illnesses. The Center's Dr. Graham Hickling says recent years have seen a migration of Lone Star and Gulf Coast ticks from the South and Black-Legged ticks from the North. Black-Legged ticks are most commonly associated with Lyme Disease, but Hickling says Lyme Disease isn't as much of a threat in Tennessee as it is in the Upper Midwest and Northeast. Rather, Hickling says Spotted Fever Group Rickettsiosis (a broad category that includes Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and a cluster of related infections) is of greater concern in Tennessee because it's more common in humans and it's potentially fatal.
If a tick bites you, Hickling suggests removing the body and mouth parts carefully with a pair of tweezers. Keeping the dead tick in a vial of alcohol or in a freezer bag may help in your diagnosis if you begin to experience headaches, fever, stiff neck or stiff joints, all potential symptoms of a tick-borne illness.