Letter Re: Deer Ticks – The Threat Within Your Perimeter

People who venture into the woods or fields should be aware of a very serious, but underreported, threat to their health, the deer tick. Deer ticks carry and transmit Lyme disease and a half dozen other serious diseases. Deer ticks can be found in most parts of the world. They are very common in Central Wisconsin which has a large population of deer, their preferred host. Thanks to the anti-hunting nuts and poor government management practices deer can found in residential neighborhoods, including large cities.

Most people are familiar with the dog or wood tick, a large, easy-to-spot tick that feeds on human blood and is very ugly when engorged. It is however, relatively benign. The deer tick is especially dangerous because it is very small, smaller than a match head. Their size makes it very difficult to detect on clothing or on your body.

Two years ago I was bitten a number of times while clearing land for our retreat. It was prime deer tick habitat; heavily wooded, high grasses and lots of deer. You may not know that you have been bitten by a deer tick (unless the tick is still embedded). It will however sting like a bald face hornet – and for a good 24 hours.

After I started developing the symptoms I put two and two together and did some Internet research. I suspected that I had Lyme disease. I had the classic bulls-eye rash on my hip; it looks like the Target logo. The primary symptoms were extreme fatigue and body aches. After years of outdoor work and practicing yoga I could barely get out of a chair.
I went to the local clinic. The NP took one look and said, “You’ve got Lyme”. She said she had got it earlier in the year, her husband the year before. I was given antibiotics. The symptoms went away within three days. I thought I was cured.

The following year I was not the same, better, but still lacking energy. Over the last year I have experienced the same deep fatigue as well as many other symptoms. I had previously been very healthy. The symptoms come and go and express themselves in a variety of ways. Reported symptoms include heart, lung, visual and mental problems – it can be fatal. It is one bad bug.
I cannot say for sure what the cause of my problems is or recommend a treatment. Lyme disease is poorly understood and often misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all. It is a complex issue and requires much research into the subject. Most physicians are Lyme illiterate; they don’t have a clue about the disease. One place to start is with a Google search for Joseph J. Burrascano, Jr., M.D. for information from one of the foremost Lyme experts. Also see http://www.turnthecorner.org/lyme-disease-quick-facts.htm for more information.

Prevention is the best medicine. When we have been in tick territory we do a complete body check in the evening – head to toe. Ticks prefer the torso; I have been bitten in the center of the back, hip and groin. I was recently bitten under my arm, my wife under her breast. Ticks live in tall grass, especially along human or deer paths. They are most active during the spring and early summer. A powerful tick repellent should be used around the ankles, wrists and neck. I wrap my socks with wide duct tape – sticky side out, to trap ticks; it works, but is no substitute for a full body check.
It is reported that if you remove the tick within 24 hours of being bitten the disease will not be transmitted and not all ticks carry the disease, this may be wishful thinking. If you do get a tick follow these instructions for removal: http://www.lyme.org/ticks/removal.html

Note that dogs can get Lyme. There is a dog vaccination available.

I urge everyone who visits or lives in areas with a deer population to exercise constant vigilance for deer ticks. If you are bitten you should consult a physician familiar with Lyme disease. Failure to do so can lead to serious long term consequences.- Bill S.