Tick-Attachment Times: Adjusting a Myth

Myths are stories or facts that are either often true, sometimes true or rarely true.  Myths can be entertaining & edifying for providing a telling and concise representation of the way things are. But their mild omissions or innocent oversimplifications can become dangerous when they lead to wrong action.

There is a rumor that ticks must be attached to their host for more than 24 hours for the disease agent to transmit into the blood-stream of the host.  In some cases this is true, but with the variety of tick species & development stages, the variety of environments and the variety of infectious pathogens, it is foolish to assume 24 hours to be the minimum; quite possibly for your next tick bite, it may be less.  In some cases of tick-type and pathogen, the minimum is unknown; but the important thing to remember is that minimum attachment times for transmission vary.

Here is a potentially helpful chart from a scholarly article written by a veterinarian.  When she talks about “the host,” she sometimes means dogs and sometimes vertebrates (which includes people) and the scholarly sources she cites are similarly non-specific.

(Clicking on the chart will take you to the full article.)

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