Find out all about ticks in the country and what you can do about them. How to identify infection, and more!
Thailand Tick Diseases
This tick-borne disease is more common than you might think. My brother back in the States just came down with Lyme disease. He noticed the tick bite early on and was treated for it in just a couple of days, but if left unchecked, serious complications can arise. I worked in a retirement home for a few months in my early twenties. A 32-year-old woman whose mind was wrecked by Lyme disease was there because there was nowhere better to put her to cope with her disability.
We have Lyme disease in Thailand too, don’t miss the case of the young Australian tourist who contracted Lyme disease in Thailand while on vacation in 2012 (scroll down).
I came down with Scrub Typhus from a Chigger (like a tick) or tick bite here in Krabi, Thailand a couple of years ago. Typhus is an infectious disease caused by rickettsiae with symptoms of a dark red or purple rash, headache, fever, and usually delirium (confused state). Typhus was a rather frequent cause of death during wars and famines when not treated quickly. There are several forms, transmitted by vectors such as lice, ticks, mites, and rat fleas.
The first cases of spotted fever in the country were recorded recently.
First cases of spotted fever group rickettsiosis in Thailand. … The first three cases of spotted fever group rickettsiosis from Thailand are reported. The patients presented with fever, headache, lymphadenopathy, and petechial maculopapular rash. (link)
Tick-borne pathogens include a wide range of viruses, protozoa, bacteria, and rickettsia. Each year, more than 100,000 cases of human symptoms worldwide are caused by tick-borne pathogens (de la Fuente et al., 2008). One tick can often transmit more than one pathogen, including tick-borne diseases (TBDs) which are illnesses transmitted to humans and animals by ticks. Most TBDs are zoonotic and are considered an important public health problem.Chatanun Eamudomkarn, Chiang Mai Veterinary Journal 2017; 15(3): 127 -136 (PDF here)
Frequency of Ticks in Residential Areas in Thailand
Thailand ticks are not just in the rainforest and grass in your yard. Like many of you, we feed a dog that comes to our house every day and she sleeps on our porch at night. She is very subdued, almost like she’s drugged. She is in good shape to look at – meaning, not fat or thin, muscular.
She’s just without an emotion of any sort. She fears men, she was probably beaten by one. This poor soi dog must be full of ticks. Update: we got her the tick/flea medicine that goes on the neck. It’s cheap in TH – about 250 THB per month. We’ll continue her on it.
So I go on the hunt and find a tick in our kitchen near the window. I ask the wife, she says they’re all over. Why she didn’t mention that to me, I’ll never know. We go out near where the dog sleeps and she finds 100+ ticks climbing the outside walls of our house. WTH!?
We look more and find them all over the walls outside, the porch, our car. We notice the dog now has a big tick on her eyelid. OK, this is getting crazy. We can’t take the dog in our car to the vet for obvious reasons. We’ll go today to get some sort of tick killer.
Though ticks are usually active in the warmer months, what months in Southern Thailand aren’t warm? So, we have a year-round tick problem, and you probably do too.
Ticks can be very small – 2 millimeters small. We actually brought a headlamp out to see better in the car park area and found many more with the better light.
Mode of Tick Transmission – Walks through Forest and Grass
Though I spend lots of time in Thailand’s forest, I have had few ticks on me. I do tend to cover up when walking on the trails through the forest. I have had Typhus from a tick that I think came from a monkey at the temple. So, do be cautious of picking up a tick there.
I had pain under the back of my upper arm for 10 days or so before I finally decided to look. That tick was about a centimeter long and filled with my blood. I had a bruise circle around the bite – and that’s when I knew something was wrong! Typhus.
Not all tick bites are harmful, but there’s a good percentage that will give you some disease you’d rather not have.
Mode of Tick Transmission – Pets
There are tick-repelling shampoos for pets that you should use whenever you bathe your dog, cat, rabbit, or whatever you have. Find it at any Thailand pet store or vet.
When I find a snake in the wild with ticks, I always remove them. I have tweezers in the bag and a slow steady squeeze around the head will gradually loosen them and they’ll pop out with some pressure (pulling). You can also soak them in cooking oil and they sometimes come out on their own rather than drown.
Mode of Tick Transmission – Rats, Mice, Snakes, Strays
Even if you don’t have pets, you probably have some animals in your yard that can bring ticks to your home.
One time here in Thailand, a friend and I pulled more than 50 ticks from one small 1.5-meter long-keeled rat snake (Ptyas carinata) – see video below.
Spraying Pesticide to Kill Ticks
If you must spray with pesticide, use something that claims to be non-harmful to the environment at least. And, spray away from the house – like where any wall around your yard meets the lawn and all along the groove of your driveway gate. Keep stray cats and dogs out of your yard, and set rat traps just to make sure you don’t have them.
I’m strongly against pesticides of any sort, so we spray isopropyl rubbing alcohol in a fine mist along the base of the exterior walls of the house and yard. It kills ticks and doesn’t last long. It literally evaporates within minutes, so you will have to repeat often, but it’s one way to do without pesticides that get into your lungs, your eyes, your kids’ lungs, your pet’s lungs, etc.
Check your body NOW for ticks, just to make sure. You may have one or two and not even notice them because they don’t always cause a sore spot right away. As I said, I had one that I thought was something like an ant bite for 10 days before my whole arm and shoulder began hurting.
Tourist Contracts Lyme Disease in Thailand
Amy Kennedy from Australia’s East Coast was on vacation in Thailand when she was infected with Lyme disease which caused paralysis in 2012. Article here.
As you can see there are many places you can pick up a tick in Thailand. Buddhist temples or beaches where monkeys are. Around your resort or home. In the forest on a nature walk. From your pet dog, or any soi dog or cat that comes too close or that inhabits your yard at least temporarily.
Take ticks seriously, the diseases they have are sometimes debilitating and even deadly!
Tick image at top ©Vern Lovic.