By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
Many people have noticed the mention of lyme disease more frequently than we used to in years past. That is because the number of confirmed cases is on the rise.
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection caused by bites from ixodes scapularis (also known as “deer” ticks or “black-legged” ticks). It is the most common tick-borne disease in the United States and West Virginia. According to James Snyder at the Tucker County Health Department, Tucker County had one probably case in 2016, two confirmed cases in 2017, and so far for 2018, two cases has been confirmed and one is currently being investigated. “We’ve had no other tick-borne illnesses investigated during that time frame, such as ehrlichia, anaplasma, babesia, or spotted fever rickettsiosis”, stated Snyder.
There are many precautionary actions one can time to decrease the chances of coming in contact with lyme disease. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, knowing where ticks live and avoiding those areas if possible is the first step. Their known habitat includes grassy, brushy, and wooded areas, obviously much of the landscape of West Virginia. Treat your clothes and gear with 0.5% permethrin or use an EPA regulated insect repellent as directed. After coming inside, check your gear, kids, pets, and self thoroughly. Shower and check under your arms, in and around ears, in the belly button, back of the knees, in and around hair, between legs, and around the waist. It is also important to check your pets and use a protective product on them as well. Before administering any medication to your pets, seek your veterinarian’s recommendations. Cats are extremely sensitive to a variety of chemicals so do not apply any tick prevention to them prior to veterinary advice. If you do find a tick on your pet, remove it immediately. In most cases, ticks must be attached thirty six to forty eight hours before lymes can be transmitted, but not always. CDC did state that there is no evidence that lyme disease is transmissible from person to person, or pet to person.
There are several signs and symptoms one can watch for if they are worried about lyme disease. Early signs include fever, chills, headache, fatigue, and a rash. However, only seventy to eighty percent actually present the well known bull’s eye appearing rash. More advanced signs would include severe headaches, neck stiffness, and severe joint and muscle pain to name a few.
Recently, former Parsons resident Holly Ferguson had a run in with lyme disease. “I woke up one morning with a bite that felt more like a burn on my hip. It was red and about an inch in diameter. I immediately had signs of lyme: headache, sore eyes, and stiff neck. Over the next few days, the size of the bite increased to eventually about five inches in diameter. It did not look like a bull’s eye, it was a big red patch around a tiny bite”. Ferguson never seen a tick, she thought it was a spider bite. She was misdiagnosed by six doctors even though she told them she had a spreading bite. “A pinched nerve in my neck”, is what they kept telling Ferguson. “I was so sick I couldn’t even walk to my mailbox”, she said. Finally she went to Ruby Hospital in Morgantown where she waited ten hours to be seen in the Emergency Department. By this time, her symptoms had progressed to the worst headache of her life, arms that felt sunburned, shaking hands, stiff neck, confusion, vision loss, and deafness when she would lay down. When they did the MRI of her brain she said, “You could see the infection. I was just so happy they found something. I was more scared of being sent home again because I knew I would die”. Once they found the infection, she was treated by a team of neurologists and admitted for treatment for a week. Even though she is home now, she is home with a PIC line to administer antibiotics intravenously for another month to kill the infection. “Lyme can be horrible like it was for me or can be treated early”, Ferguson added.
In 2015, ninety five percent of all confirmed cases of lyme disease cases came from fourteen states. None of which were West Virginia, but it did include Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. As of 2016, eleven counties in West Virginia are considered “endemic” for lyme disease. Those counties include: Berkeley, Hampshire, Hancock, Jefferson, Kanawha, Marshall, Mineral, Morgan, Roane, Wetzel, and Wood Counties. It is important to know the early signs and seek medical attention urgently if you suspect lyme. Take preventative measures and don’t forget about the pets, too.