Tick Bite Deaths: Can You Die From Tick Infection?

tick bite deaths

Can you die from tick infection? Yes you can! Sure tick bites, for the most part, are not fatal but infected ticks can pass on their deadly viruses to a victim and this can have deadly consequences. Let’s check out several cases from around the world where seemingly harmless tick bites caused the deaths of patients.

North Carolina, USA. ABC News reports on the case of Emilee Russell, a six-year-old girl from North Carolina who “died from Rocky Mountain spotted fever, a bacterial infection transmitted by ticks”.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) which ended Emilee’s life is “a tickborne disease caused by the bacterium Rickettsia rickettsii”. Said bacterium is most commonly transmitted to humans by bite of infected American dog ticks (Dermacentor variabilis), Rocky Mountain wood ticks (Dermacentor andersoni), and brown dog ticks (Rhipicephalus sanguineus).

Minnesota, USA. In 2011, Minnesota health authorities revealed that a woman died from a tick bite bite while another became gravely ill. Here’s the media release detailing the two cases (from the Minnesota Department of Health):

A woman in her 60s from northern Minnesota has died from a brain infection due to Powassan (POW) virus. This is the first death in the state attributed to the disease. One other likely POW case has been identified this year in Minnesota, in an Anoka County man in his 60s who was hospitalized with a brain infection and is now recovering at home. POW virus is transmitted through the bite of an infected tick.

Both 2011 cases became ill in May after spending time outdoors and noticing tick bites. The fatal case was likely exposed to ticks near her home. The case from Anoka County might have been exposed near his home or at a cabin in northern Minnesota.

Illinois, USA
. Also in 2011, Illinois media reported the sudden death of an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) worker bitten by a tick. From kmov.com:

An O’Fallon, Illinois EMS worker suddenly died Tuesday from a possible tick bite. According to police, Michelle Heap had been on several camping trips over the last few weeks and her symptoms were consistent with a tick born illness.

Experts say ticks become a major problem six months out of the year between the months of April and September. According to experts, Ehrlich-I-Osis is the most common tick born disease in Missouri with only one to two percent of patients dying from the disease. Ehrlich-I-Osis is treatable with antibiotics if caught early.

South Korea. Tick bite infections leading to death is not limited in the United States. Here’s a case reported by Arirang News in South Korea:

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Tuesday it had confirmed that a 63-year-old woman died of SFTS, or severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome, last August. The woman suffered from high fever, diarrhea and multi-organ failure — all common symptoms of the disease.

She died around ten days after she was hospitalized and the cause of death had been unclear at the time. The disease control center confirmed Tuesday, that the cause of death was the deadly tick-borne virus. They said she had sustained the tick bite on a farm near her home in northeastern Gangwon Province.

Australia. Meanwhile in Australia, a lethal tick infection has been found to be partly responsible for the death of a 56 year old man. From the Sydney Morning Herald:

A POTENTIALLY lethal tick infection newly identified in Australia has mysteriously emerged on the NSW south coast. Doctors have revealed the first reported Australian case of human babesiosis, a tick-borne infection that carries a 5 to 10 per cent fatality rate, higher than the death rate from the most common tick bite infections.