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Tick Alert!

NOT a Lyme-disease Rash

Published on: Mar. 20, 2012

I had a bit of a scare over the weekend. It started around 6:15 a.m. Sunday, when the boss gobbler of my neighborhood woke me from a sound sleep. Obeying a conditioned reflex familiar to turkey-hunting addicts, I stumbled from bed and soon found myself standing in my back yard clad in camo. By then I was awake enough to know it would be illegal to carry a shotgun, so I ventured forth armed only with binoculars. I spent a very enjoyable 90 minutes shadowing five strutting gobblers, who were following nine hens. However, I had forgotten something – tick repellent.

Later that day, I found a deer tick (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deer_tick) firmly embedded in my right thigh. The moment I saw him, I figured I had trouble. A 3/8-inch circle of skin around the tick’s head had turned an angry purple color in just a few hours. I had never seen this before. The fact that the center of the discolored skin had a dark spot made me think “Bull’s-Eye!”

For years, I have heard about the distinctive bull’s-eye rash that foreshadows Lyme disease. My wife agreed that this looked a heck of a lot like a bull’s eye, so first thing Monday morning I called my family doctor and asked if he could see me right away.

I don’t rush to the doctor every time I sneeze, but I have known people who suffered from tick-borne diseases, and I know they are nothing to mess with. Early symptoms include flu-like chills, fever, head and muscle aches and fatigue. More serious symptoms can emerge weeks, months, or years after a tick bite. These include severe headaches, facial paralysis, joint swelling, arthritis, heart problems and mental impairment. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have any joints or brainpower to spare!

You can imagine how relieved I was when my doctor told me my rash was not the typical Lyme-disease bull’s eye. Mine was small compared to the real McCoy, and it didn’t have the usual, light-colored center. I was relieved but not completely reassured. What if my rash DEVELOPS into the classic Lyme rash? What if I get one of the other nine tick-borne diseases currently recognized by the American Lyme Disease Foundation? (http://aldf.com/lyme.shtml.) Some of these maladies, such as Ehrlichiosis, can be even worse than Lyme disease. What’s worse, some don’t give you the courtesy of a warning rash. Yikes!

My good family doc reassured me that, even though I didn’t have Lyme disease (yet), the purple skin rash was proof that the tick had given me something unpleasant, maybe staff or some other more common bacterial infection. He prescribed an oral antibiotic that will take all those nasty bugs out.

WHEW!

Why am I telling you about this? So you can do what I plan to do – get protected. I prefer tick repellents based on the chemical compound called “permanone.” Permanone-based repellents are widely available and amazingly effective. One application to clothing (never to skin) provides protection through several washings. DEET-based repellents work, too. I have plenty of both. However, I usually treat all my clothing right before turkey season, and turkey season doesn’t open until April 16. I simply let my guard down.

Don’t let it happen to you. Using some kind of tick repellent is the first line of defense against tick-borne illnesses. There are other things you can do to avoid Lyme and other similar maladies. To find out about those measures, visit http://go.usa.gov/Erj. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services also has some great information at http://go.usa.gov/Err.

I want to point out that Missouri is not currently known to have Lyme disease. You can get other tick-borne diseases here, so it pays to be careful. But your chances of getting ANY of these ailments are very, very small. With reasonable precautions, they are almost nonexistent. If fear of tick-borne diseases is enough to keep you indoors, you probably NEVER get into an automobile, where the risks are much greater.

-Jim Low-

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Comments

On April 2nd, 2012 at 9:31am lowj said:

That's just awful, Beth. I'm so sorry to learn of your health problems. I hoped that my original Fresh Afield post would alert people to the dangers of tick-borne diseases. Your comment certainly helps!

On March 30th, 2012 at 9:53am Beth Ward-Davis said:

For some reason I am still reading that there are no cases of confirmed Lyme disease from Missouri. This topic really needs to be clarified with a state wide news story... Missouri ticks carry thier own strain of the bacteria that causes Lyme disease...it is actually a spirochete(Can't spell, you will know why later.) that comes from inside the gut of a infected deer tick. On the east coast it is spread with the blacklegged deer tick.On west coast it is spread thru the western deer tick,Missouri has more than one type of tick. Our deer tick is called the brown legged deer tick. It is said to rarely bite humans as it is a tick who is carried on backs of deer. It was once thought humans rarely come incontact with the deer tick in Missouri. however with the population growth in Missouri Ozarks and subdivisions being built where deer have always lived humans are coming into contact with this deer tick more often.The result will be more cases of the Lyme disease being confirmed. The tick most often encountered by us missourians is the Lone star tick witch carries several tick borne illness.Most known is the Rocky Mountian fever.The Lone star tick is the one with the spot on it's back. The nymph stage of these are what we sometimes call the "Missouri Seed tick."These ticks can spread lots of things. i am a Missouri resident who has never been biten by a tick in any other state than Missouri. I test positive to late stages of a Missouri strain of the bacteria that causes a" Lyme- like "illness or in my case a Lyme like syndrome. I also have positive for ehrlichia and bartonella witch is a cat scratch fever. i was not treated in time so the bacterias were allowed to desiminate into the tissues where it was allowed to evade my immune system. Coming in and out of remission by attacking my body when ever my immune system was weakend by other stresses of life and health. It was allowed to enter my brain and hide causes brain tissue damage...in 2001 after diagnosis I was treated for 6 weeks with orals and had such a major bacterial die off that my body was in a toxic shock.It left me with all symptoms of the illness coming out at once leaving me with a parkinsons type of syndrome for 18 months. I have since been in and out of remissions with all those parkinsons symptoms flaring up every month leaving me unable to walk for hours at a time.My body will shake and tighten up as if a major charlie horse has taken over my body.These are now being written off as symptoms from a Myalgia Syndrome. After all this I got a tick bite in 2009 that gave me Rocky Mountian Tick Fever. believe we don't have lyme disease in missouri if you want but be aware we have many tick diseases that can change your life forever. Document any bites your children get.If with in two weeks of the bite they develope cold or flu symptoms report it to your doctor.Tick season starts after cold and flu season is over so...ANY SUMMER TIME FLU SHOULD BE REPPORTED.

On March 22nd, 2012 at 12:03pm Anonymous said:

As others have commented, Missouri DOES indeed have Lyme. Also a host of other tick-borne diseases, including Babesia and Bartonellosis. Most MD's don't have a clue, to either the prevelance of these or how to treat them. Do yourself a big, big favor and research them. You will need more than the 4-6 weeks of antibiotics recommended by the CDC if you are to avoid lingering effects of this very serious disease.

On March 21st, 2012 at 10:34am lowj said:

So much good information! Can't believe I misspelled "staph." I know better! The issue of officially confirming Lyme disease cases here has always been a bone of contention. The point I wanted to make, and which your comments emphasize, is that whatever you call it, people do get tick-borne diseases in Missouri, so precautions are important. Thanks everyone! - Jim@mdc

On March 20th, 2012 at 10:23pm Anonymous said:

Missouri DOES have Lyme Disease! My son was bitten back in 2001-2002, after playing at the park. We noticed the tick and I took it off right away. He got Rocky Mountain Fever and Lyme Disease! He ran a high fever for two days and we were sent home from the Barton County Hospital 2 times telling me nothing was wrong. I knew he was bad off, so I took him to Freeman Hospital in Joplin the next day because the bulls eye rash was all over his body by then! The fever started before the rash and he was real weak and ached all over. At the point I took him to Freemans, he couldn't even walk on his own because he was so weak. While in the hospital, he got so bad that they did not think he was going to make it through the week...it was a very scary time! We had just moved to Missouri from Texas and this was his first tick bite to ever get! So don't kid yourself...those nasty critters carry all kinds of diseases! He still has side effects to this day...all from that one tick bite!

On March 20th, 2012 at 10:09pm john neubauer said:

i have lyme and i got it from montgomery county missouri, and it is confirmed. missouri does in fact have it.

On March 20th, 2012 at 10:02pm Brenda Kasten said:

The "staff" that you were talking about is actually "staph." That's an abbreviation for staphlococcus. My husband and many of our acquaintances had a Lyme-like disease that's called "Master's Disease" after Doctor Ed Masters. My husband had it and it's not fun. Here's a link: http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/MissouriLyme/
Shortened URL
http://mdc.mo.gov/node/17218