Calling All Momma Bears

There are so many misconceptions when it comes to Lyme disease.  Many are potentially deadly.  The first is the idea that we do not live in an endemic area.  If you are a local reader, let me tell you a well-kept secret……

YOU LIVE IN AN ENDEMIC AREA!

Want to know how I know that?  If you contact the CDC in Kanawha county, they will claim there are zero cases of Lyme disease in our county.  Zero.  I am living, positive proof of at least one.

Another reason I know this?

I know we live in an area with deer ticks because I see them.  I see them frequently and in excess.  My stepson went hunting one morning, and he and his friend found over a dozen deer ticks crawling on them.  As a child, I don’t remember seeing a deer tick.  Ever.  But now, they’re prominent.

My husband killed a deer a few weeks ago.  As the girls and I stood nearby, helping and snapping fall photos, we noticed two deer ticks on one of the deer’s legs.  Had we examined the deer closely, Lord only knows how many we would have found.  John says he’s never found a deer tick in all the decades of hunting.  Perhaps he just hasn’t been paying attention or maybe the deer tick count is significantly higher than it once was.

It’s a matter of logistics.  There are more deer in our area, especially considering last year’s deer kill count was one of the lowest in history.  More deer equals more hosts and more hosts equal more Lyme disease.  It’s common sense.

Add to this our current weather pattern.  While we generally consider spring and summer peak tick season, the warm weather this fall is not killing them off.  Instead, the temperatures are providing more time for them to live, to attach, and to infect.

Want to know another reason I’m positive we live in an endemic area?

Because every single day I speak to someone who has been affected by Lyme.  I receive private messages via Facebook or this blog.

An 8-year-old little girl tested positive last week and will see an infectious disease doctor in Morgantown next week.

A mom of two has been sick for over a year, but recently discovered it was Lyme disease.  She’s barely able to walk to the bathroom at this point.

A 23-year-old is in a wheelchair and has 4-5 seizures per day due to Lyme disease.

A police officer is unable to get out of bed because the fatigue and pain have gotten so bad; her quality of life is gone.

A mom and her 18-month-old were both diagnosed with Lyme and are trying to figure out treatment options.

A well tender was bitten and had a huge rash on his calf.  Because his wife reads this blog, she made him immediately seek treatment.

My good friend’s three-year-old has had two attached deer ticks on her this year.

This morning, my own stepson woke with a tick embedded in his hip, the classic rash already beginning to form around the bite.

All of these examples are local.  Clearly we have deer ticks in abundance, and regardless of what the CDC claims, we have Lyme disease in abundance as well.

It terrifies me because it’s so difficult to avoid.  Deer ticks are the size of the letter D on a dime.  A tiny piece of fuzz.  A poppy seed. How can we combat that?

As buck season approaches, please remind your hunters that they must protect themselves.

  1. Spray with tick repellant.  We use essential oils, but there are plenty of over-the-counter options available.
  2. When finished in the woods, SHOWER.  Ticks generally don’t immediately attach.  Showering as soon as you come inside can prevent them from embedding.
  3. Make a tick kit.  (Read all about that here.)  Actually use it.

While we can take steps to avoid tick bites, we can’t always prevent them.  So know what do if you or a loved one are bitten.  (Again, read about the tick kit here.)  Monitor the site and the patient closely. Symptoms are generally not immediate and can present 3-30 days from the initial bite. Symptoms are often flu-like –fever, , fatigue, muscle aches, headache –and/or a bull’s eye rash. You do NOT have to have the rash to have Lyme disease, nor do you have to have every symptom. These are dangerous misconceptions.

If you are bitten by a deer tick and a rash forms, immediately seek medical attention.  Based solely on your symptoms, the doctor should identify you as having been infected by Lyme disease and should prescribe three weeks of an antibiotic called Doxycycline.

If you are bitten, no rash forms, but you eventually acquire flu-like symptoms, seek medical attention.  The doctor could treat you based on symptoms or he may choose to run the traditional bloodtests for Lyme disease, the ELISA and the Western Blot. Neither test is incredibly accurate, having a 35% chance of missing the disease.  They require just the right window of testing as you must have built up antigens to the virus, yet if you’ve been on antibiotics, that, too, can throw off the test results.  Since delaying the treatment for Lyme can make it much more difficult to treat, I would err on the side of caution and request the antibiotic regardless of the test results, and here’s why.

If you are treated within those first few weeks of infection, your chances of making a full and rapid recovery are around 95%.  If, like in my case, you don’t begin treatment until, say, just four months after infection, you will require months of IV antibiotics to try to remove the disease from your neuro, cardio and joint systems, and even then, even after a year of aggressive treatment, you could suffer from chronic or post-treatment Lyme disease for the rest of your life.

So, yes, it scares the crap out of me, and I want it to scare the crap out of you, too.

I want you to understand the very real ramifications of pretending we do not live in an endemic area.  I tested positive by the strict CDC requirements, my doctor properly reported it, and I was contacted by the health department….yet, as I said, my case somehow doesn’t exist on record.  I want you to be angry with me that our government is allowing this epidemic to grow at exponential rates by ignoring it.

I want you to prepare your tick kit, check your kids often, shower after being outside, and know what do if, heaven forbid, you or a loved one are bitten.

I want you to be scared with me because fear incites action.

Our love for our families is fierce.  Our trepidation that harm could come to them makes us more vigilant mommas.  There is a hidden epidemic threatening our families.  It’s time to bring out the momma bears inside us.

One thought on “Calling All Momma Bears

Add yours

  1. Hi! I’m currently in medical school in New York and I wanted to give these other possible tips to my fellow readers. If you are bitten, saving the tick can actually be beneficial. You can put it in a baggy and in your freezer with the date and time you were bitten. Although the idea of it in your freezer is icky, it can be helpful. There are tests that can be run on it should you develop symptoms. This second tip may be something that is only possible here, but many doctors will give you preventive medications if you are bit before you even develop symptoms. While doling out antibiotics is a terrible thing in general, in the case of Lyme disease it is worth it.

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