I am not an expert on tick infections. However, the following problems happened to me from a Lone Star Tick bite. The first hospital kept me for 12 days without a diagnosis. When it was necessary for me to be placed on a ventilator; it was decided additional help was needed before I died. I was transferred to Vanderbilt Medical Center where they diagnosed my problem in a couple of days and saved my life. I was also assisted with a lot of prayers from friends asking for God’s help, and it worked.
I lived in Jackson for 60 years and practiced dentistry there for 30 years before retiring and moving to Middle Tennessee. Ticks are the same in both states, and we have all learned how to best avoid, look for, and pull off these pests. The only way not to have a tick on you is to grow up in a house with no pets, never leave your house, and never play in the grass or woods. If you have never had a tick bite, you are a rare individual and not likely from the South.
We have heard of American Dog Ticks, Deer Ticks, and Brown Dog Ticks. These may cause Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme Disease, Tularemia, and other tick borne infections. They have been around, diagnosed, and treated for about 50 years.
One of the newer comers is the Lone Star Tick. This tick may carry Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Fever, and Tularemia. In addition, they cause a tick borne bacterial infection termed Human Ehrlichiosis which causes severe infections in humans, birds, and animals. The disease attacks various types of white blood cells. The tick may carry three different diseases known as Human Monocytic Ehrlichiosis, Human Granulocytic Anaplasmosis and Ehrlichiosis Ewengii Ehrlichiosis. They are similar bacteria but come from the same carriers. This tick has been identified for at least 10 years and for the past four to six years much research has been completed related to the types of bacteria present and the treatment for them. Any of the above ticks are capable of carrying these bacteria to a lesser degree. Unfortunately the information about this tick has not been well circulated.
Symptoms may occur from five to 10 days following the tick bite and may include chills, headache, coughing, muscle ache, vomiting, and a spike fever. Similar symptoms occur with flu or pneumonia. Patients are often misdiagnosed which results in more severe problems. If untreated, the bacterial infections of Ehrlichiosis may cause unconsciousness, renal failure requiring dialysis, excessive loss of weight, inability to walk, excessive post-nasal congestion, inability to swallow, or speak, loss of taste, allergic reaction to meat byproducts, heart changes, inability to breathe which requires a ventilator, and the need of massive blood transfusions. Recovery time from Ehrlichiosis can last from two - three weeks if early diagnosed and treated. Hospital stays may last from three - four days or not at all if early diagnosis and treatment are made. Failure to properly diagnose and treat Ehrlichiosis can create hospital stays of five weeks followed by two to three months of physical rehabilitation. Total recovery time may last up to 10 months before all the side effects are gone.
It is most important to get an early diagnosis within two to three days of your symptoms or bite and be placed on the proper antibiotics. When you seek medical attention ask if the attendant is conversant of tick borne infections. Ask especially about bites from ticks that cause Ehrlichiosis. Early treatment using antibiotics before final diagnosis may be prescribed. Having the tick for identification may help determine which antibiotic to give for prevention prior to receiving lab reports. Blood studies are needed to pick up the presence of a blood infection and will also indicate which antibiotics are needed. You may never realize you have been bitten by a tick. Ticks often bite and release themselves without you being aware that you have been bitten. You may have an itching area, but pass it off as a redbug bite.
Save the tick you remove in a small bottle or small freezer bag. Record the date when you removed the tick. The proper way to remove a tick is with small tipped tweezers. Reach below the tick’s teeth, take a small plug of skin beneath the head of the tick, and pull straight out without twisting. Do not use your fingers because mashing the body of the tick will inject more bacteria into your system. Do not kill the tick or place the tick into any liquid. Having the tick for identification may help your care provider determine which antibiotic to prescribe prior to receiving lab reports. Specific labs are able to identify the tick and determine if that particular tick is carrying any type of bacteria.
A new tick that has not been identified as the carrier of a tick borne disease called Powassan Virus. Three people in Saratoga County, Florida have contracted this virus during the past year. There have been 24 cases of the virus there since 2000 with 15 percent mortality. Researchers have collected more than 2,000 ticks in the county infected, but they have not been able to identify any tick carrying the virus. Currently there is no treatment for the Powassan Virus. Treatment for this virus is to control body pain and swelling of the brain. It has been determined that a tick can infect a person with this virus within 15 minutes after being bitten. Your recovery is dependent on how physically healthy you are to resist the virus.
Google the following and learn what may save you lots of discomfort and possibly your life. This is not a research paper, but a few things learned from having a nasty relationship with a Lone Star Tick.
www.cdc.gov/ticks/tickbornediseases of the United States (Best information)
www.clemson.edu/extension /publications/entomology/me (Good article)
Kirby P. Walker, Jr., DDS