Hurray for May, the time when frolicking outdoors in the Gorge goes full speed! And the time to remember that May is the peak season for the tiny poppy-seed sized but dangerous nymphal tick, which can spread Lyme disease.
Hot off the press in People Magazine:
Celebrity Debbie Gibson just announced last month that she was diagnosed with Lyme disease last year: “It is an elusive disease that disguises itself as many other things, and creates a lot of pain and discomfort.”
Debbie also said, “I found I could not touch sugar, starch, caffeine, certain oils, etc., without having a severe reaction that felt like electricity running through my body.”
Moreover, “According to Gibson, her doctors tested her for ‘everything under the sun’ – except for Lyme disease.” (Read more at http://bit.ly/1oMexug).
Amy Tan, famous author and playwright, talks about her battle with Lyme disease.
She was hallucinating in New York City. Big time. She could barely write again.
Go to: http://nyti.ms/1jpsZmG.
Lymedisease.org (formerly the California Lyme Disease Association) summarizes the following:
As residents spend more time outdoors, millions of nymphs are hatching out in the leaf litter. Most will find a mouse or squirrel for their first blood meal; some will latch onto an unlucky human. (You can hardly feel them on you.) Percentages of ticks infected with the bacteria that cause Lyme disease vary according to location, and is present even here in Oregon.
Phyllis Mervine, the founder of Lymedisease.org, didn’t notice a bite before she got sick in the summer of 1977. She says it took her 10 years to get diagnosed.
She just published the largest survey ever conducted on people with Lyme. They found that chronic Lyme disease is associated with a worse quality of life than most other chronic illnesses, including congestive heart failure, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and arthritis. (Go to lymedisease.org to see published survey results.)
These nasty little critters are called “questers” because of the way they perch on plants and wait for a host to jump on (they love heat and carbon dioxide).
Ticks only live about two years and live to feed on animals, birds and humans. Generally they feed three times: as larvae, nymph, and adult. During nymph stage, they usually attach themselves to birds or rodents for several days; the nymph stage starts after the tick’s first blood meal.
Nymphs remain inactive during winter and start moving again in spring. They then find a host: a bird, pet, or human.
After this second meal, the nymph falls off and moves into adult stage. During the fall, male and female adults find a rodent, pet, or human. The adult female can feed for 8-12 days.
The female mates while still attached to her host. Both ticks fall off, and the male dies. The female remains inactive through winter — then she lays her eggs in the spring in a secluded place. One adult female can lay up to 3,000 eggs.
Springtime is obviously overflowing with questing ticks as the climate is ideal in the Pacific Northwest: moist and warm. So, now is the time to be serious about prevention because everyone in the Gorge and surrounding areas are excited about getting outdoors and staying outdoors!
Prevention is the key to avoiding Lyme disease and its co-infections:
n Use sprays containing permethrin on clothing and DEET on skin;
n Avoid tick-infested areas, and check yourself frequently for several days following exposure;
n Remove any biting ticks promptly, using tweezers or special tick-removing tweezers;
n Do not twist, squeeze, or squish the tick. Try not to get tick fluids on your skin.
If you’re bitten:
n If you want to have the tick tested, put it in a small vial or plastic bag with a moist cotton ball or paper towel;
n Go to Igenex.com. They can test the tick for you for $65. It is well worth it to find out whether or not the tick is infected.
n See a doctor who is knowledgeable about Lyme disease if you experience a rash or flu-like symptoms after exposure to ticks.
How do you know you have Lyme?
Early symptoms include a flu-like illness with fever, headache, swollen glands and aching muscles. Oh, by the way, the typical flu season in the U.S. is considered October to May, usually peaking in February. So, if you feel flu-ish in May or during the summer, and no one else around you is sick, wouldn’t that be a bit weird?
And some people — but not all — develop a rash around the bite area. Because the incidence of Lyme in Oregon is low compared to other states, doctors are not always aware of the risk and may misdiagnose as chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, MS, or even mental illness, but the risk is real; in fact, there are over 100 patients treating for Lyme in Hood River County alone.
The second article of this series will cover Lyme in Oregon. Stay tuned.
Mary Jane Heppe, of Hood River, is a Lyme educator and advocate.