|It's easy to see how you could be bitten and might not be aware that you were, or be clear about which tick may have bitten you.|
In my area, the Mid-Atlantic American South, Lyme Disease has been entrenched for some time. Although Family Practitioners in suburbs often tell their patients, "It's rare", every farmer and every rural realtor I know from the area have been treated for Lyme Disease, have had positive tests, and some of them have permanent damage from it. Lyme Disease was first noted in Lyme Connecticut in the mid 1970s, when a cluster of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis was observed in much higher numbers than would ordinarily occur. Eventually, it was detected that an organism, which normally infected the deer of the region, had jumped to infecting human beings through the bite of a particular tick. Lyme has spread through the US pretty effectively since, where it is the most common vector-borne illness in this country. Now felt to be possible in all US states, it has infected people in North America, Europe and Asia. We spend time in Nova Scotia each year. Nova Scotia had believed until recently that Lyme did not afflict its inhabitants, and therefore treatment for children with Lyme was off to a slow start. Now, physicians in Nova Scotia know that this is possible, and they are more alert to this as a possibility. Some references claim that Lyme has afflicted human beings on six continents. Lyme Disease is caused by a bacteria known a Borellia burgdorferi, a spirochete, yes a distant relative of syphilis. Interestingly, tests for Lyme Disease can often be false negatives, so it is important to follow up with your physician and not trust one negative test too completely. In some nations it is called Borelliosis, and has reached epidemic proportions. Lyme can impact just about any organ system, and even following treatment, the damage you sustain from it, you may keep, so early diagnosis and treatment is preferable. The first signs of Lyme Disease are usually, "migrating arthralgias" which are joint pains which seem to move around. There may be intermittent fevers, and general malasise. Often the patient remembers a tick bite, but sometimes, they do not. Not all ticks carry Lyme Disease. In Virginia, for example, deer ticks do, and the American dog and lone star ticks do not.
|A classic "Bulls Eye" rash as is often seen in Lyme Disease. Sometimes it is more or less diffuse.|
When a person is bitten by a tick with Lyme, the tick is of a small variety, so sometimes the person has no idea. Between three days to a few weeks after being bitten, about 80% of people develop a rash. Sometimes this rash has a bulls eye appearance, and sometimes it does not. It usually does not itch or hurt. If this is missed, Lyme can progress to the joints, the nervous system or to the heart. If you have been bitten by a tick and later are ill, mention this to your doctor. Lyme can be successfully treated with antibiotics, although some longstanding infections may not be able to be completely eradicated. Our dogs can also be impacted by this, and an immunization for them is available.
About two years ago, I went out to the kennel one morning to find our young Labrador Zelina, unable to bear weight on her back legs. She was scarcely a year old, and was up to date on all immunizations and was up to date on heartworm preventive. We took her to the vet immediately. The vet said that she had seen several cases of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever among dogs lately, and that if Zelina responded quickly to the antibiotic she was being given that this likely was the cause. Zelina was completely well twenty four hours later, but still completed the full run of the antibiotics. In human beings, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever symptoms begin 2-14 days following a tick bite by the "Dog Tick, ( aka Dermacentor variabilis). Fever, chills, severe muscle pain, upset stomach and possibly vomiting occurs. A red spotted rash appears on the wrists and the ankles and then spread to the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. Blood tests can confirm the presence of this illness. As with Lyme, it is extremely important for treatment to occur as quickly as possible.
I am afraid that there are multiple diseases which are tick borne, but two more are being diagnosed more in my home state. Ehrlichiosis and Anaplasmosis are tick borne illnesses in which a bacteria causes an infection. Ehrlichiosis is spread by a lone star tick, and anaplasmosis by a black legged ot deer tick. Many times physicians choose to treat a patient for these with an antibiotic before waiting for confirmatory testing. Patients in whom these diseases are permitted to progress develop liver enzyme spikes and platelet abnormalities. Tularemia and babesiosis are two other serious tick borne illnesses. We will discuss tick removal and prevention in a subsequent post. Find out what tick-borne illnesses are seen in your area.
Please also see a new post on the subject of tick borne illnesses: