Tue09162014

Last updateThu, 19 Nov 2015 8pm

   20140901MetroCastweb

Going Outdoors? Beware of the Ticks!

Anyone who ventures outdoors, or anyone who lives with someone that does should read this article. It is getting warm out there, and ticks are definitely out and about. My wife and I went turkey hunting for a few hours this past Saturday, and when we came home, she found five ticks on her.

Ticks are all over the place, and they seem to have become more of a threat than they used to be when I was coming along. I recall as a kid hearing about Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Then it was Lyme Disease, which was first discovered in Lyme, Connecticut. There are a half dozen diseases that are chronic, and even disabling, that can result from a tick bite. According to the Virginia Department of Health’s website, Lyme is on the upswing in our state with many new cases each month. Lyme may actually be the most common tick disease we face right now. Most know the signs of Lyme as being associated with a bull’s eye rash around the bite. The disease can be very disabling with many people suffering for a long time to include years. Fatigue, chills, muscle aches, and headache are common symptoms. I have read articles saying researchers are now wondering if someone who has not been treated for Lyme Disease can have heart attacks as a result. Arthritis, muscle and joint pain and swollen joints are common. High doses of antibiotics are normally prescribed. Most of the time, this works, and eventually the symptoms may disappear. However, some people have been unable to work and have become disabled as a result. To get Lyme Disease, most doctors say the tick has to be embedded on you for at least 36 hours. This disease is only carried by the deer or brown/black-legged tick.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is carried by the dog tick. This one has fever, nausea, vomiting, muscle pain, headache, stomach pain, and sometimes a spotted rash associated with it. It can cause some people to die or be in a coma if not treated right away.

Another commonly found tick disease in Virginia is Ehrlichiosis. This one is carried solely by the Lone Star Tick. Its symptoms are very similar to the Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever with fever, chills, headache, muscle pain, nausea, cough and possible sore throat. This can cause a fatality if not treated soon.

Possibly the scariest tick disease (at least to your outdoor columnist) is one that is relatively new. This one is causes by the bite of a Lone Star tick. The tick bite (when in high numbers) can cause an allergy to mammalian meat. Yes, IF you contracted the disease/allergy, you would have to avoid any contact with mammalian meat. The allergy is to Galactose-alpha 1, 3 galactose, or what is commonly known as “alpha-gal.” You could eat fish, turkey or chicken, but that is it. In fact, you have to avoid contact with raw meat, too. Those that have this condition have to be very careful about eating out. Some restaurants may serve soups with broth made from red meat or pork. The odd thing is that the reaction is not immediate.

Normally, it takes four to six hours to occur, and for that reason, people may not connect what happened to something they ate. Symptoms include an upset stomach (such as diarrhea), hives, itching, sudden weakness (such as your legs giving out), swelling of the throat, mouth and lips and difficulty breathing. It can also make you pass out and possibly die. Each reaction gets more severe.

This condition is a growing concern as more and more people are turning up with it. One report I read said it might be the next epidemic of sorts. Most of the cases are in the Southeast, but cases abroad are being reported all over the world. I would HATE to give up red meat. Some anecdotal reports show that over time, some people are able to slowly add red meat back into their diet. A simple blood test can show you whether you have it or not.

The best way to prevent these diseases or allergies is to prevent tick bites and/or remove ticks promptly. Check yourself every time you go outdoors. Be sure to check tough-to-find areas. The genitals, between your toes, in your hair, behind the knees and so on, are all spots they can be found. I have heard of several people in King George that were diagnosed with Lyme Disease, and they eventually found a tick between their toes. The tick does not have to be large to transmit the disease. Removing the whole tick with a pair of tweezers is important. If you suspect that you might have one of these diseases or conditions, or if your bite area swells abnormally or a rash develops, you need to see a doctor. Try to determine what species of tick was on you.

If you have children, check them over very closely each time they come in. Permethrin is a synthetic chemical that supposedly works well on clothing to keep ticks off. Tuck pants in boots, use DEET bug spray if you want, and try and avoid areas where there is tall grass or weeds, if possible. If you live in a rural area and have chickens that free range, you probably do not notice ticks as much. Chickens are good at finding them and consuming them; guineas do, too. Be aware of ticks and check yourself well each time you go out this year. Don’t be one of the ticks’ victims.

Mark Fike

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