Beware of ticks
As a child, I didn’t think much about the tiny brown parasite that I occasionally found latched onto my scalp.
But my grandmother did and went after each one with a vengeance, lighting a match and holding the flame close to the tick’s head until it released its hold.
As far as I know, I never contracted any tick-borne diseases but the potential is there.
Just ask Dr. Garret Shaw, a family practice physician at the Gothenburg Clinic.
Shaw said ticks, at least three found in the Gothenburg area, can carry different diseases such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever that can be fatal.
Although RMSF has long been present in Nebraska, state epidemiologists said in 2010 that fewer than 10 cases are reported each year.
State epidemiologists said the same is true with Lyme disease, the most prevalent tick-borne disease in the United States, because most—if not all—cases reported had out-of-state exposure in 2010.
“In 2009, we reported four such cases to the national reportable system and all had out-of-state exposure,” they said.
Shaw likened the chance of contracting Lyme disease in Nebraska to winning the lottery.
“And it’s not the first thing we think of, when someone has fever, chills and aches, until the characteristic rash appears,” he added.
A primary symptom of Lyme disease is a red rash that may resemble a “bulls-eye.”
The kinds of ticks thought to be in this area, according to Nebraska state epidemiologists, include:
The deer tick or wood tick that carries Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. A skin rash is not always present at first and the disease is easily unrecognizable and misdiagnosed. Fever and chills often accompany the rash.
This tick may also carry Lyme disease. Diagnosis of Lyme disease should be made by doctors experienced in recognizing the disease. Testing is generally done to eliminate other conditions. The Texas lone star tick can cause a clinical syndrome similar to Lyme disease. However infected persons have milder illness and the infection appears to respond to antibiotics used to treat Lyme disease.
Shaw noted that RMSF and Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics.
“The trick is to get it diagnosed,” he said.
Spring and summer are when ticks are the most active although Lyme disease is a year-round problem.
Like with the mosquito-borne disease known as West Nile, Shaw said many people have been unknowingly infected by bacterium carried by ticks and have developed some immunity to some tick diseases.
To prevent the attachment of ticks, he suggests using a DEET-based repellent that also repels mosquitoes.
When removing a tick, Shaw said to use tweezers to grab the parasite as close to the skin as possible and pull gently. Apply antiseptic.
“Then watch the site to see if it turns red,” he said, noting that a little redness is normal.