Paramedic’s Corner: Trouble with ticks and early signs of Lyme Disease
By: Ambulance Director Gary Carmack
Ambulance Director Gary Carmack
Ticks ... yuck!
It’s that time of year again. A co-worker was talking about how ticks are already out and it might be a good idea to re-visit the dangers.
A few years ago a friend of mine was sick for several days with a musculoskeletal flu-like syndrome, which is best described by malaise (a vague uneasy bad feeling), fatigue, chills, fever, headache; and sometimes with stiff neck, myalgias (diffuse muscle pain, usually accompanied with malaise), and arthralgias (joint pain). She went to a doctor and was treated for the flu. The fatigue continued with headaches and the malaise only worsening. Additionally, she had a funny bite that had a red border, then clear, sort of like a “bull’s eye” center. Another doctor recognized possible Lyme disease, ordered lab test to confirm it, started antibiotic therapy, and finally got her well. This painful ordeal took months, mostly due to the absence of early diagnosis and therapy.
Ticks seem bad this year to me. When walking to my horse barn, I was getting ticks, so I started using tick repellent the last few days and stopped the itchy aggravating bites. The salient point of this article, besides careful screening for ticks, is using preventative methods. Lyme disease doesn’t usually occur until an infected tick is in place sucking blood for 36 to 48 hours. Thus, good screening and promptly removing ticks can prevent the disease.
Lyme disease is actually a recurrent inflammatory disorder caused by the tick-borne spirochete (bacterium) Borrelia burgdorferi, similar in shape to the causative organism of syphilis; it is the most commonly reported of the vector-borne diseases in our nation.
The tick causing all the trouble is common in the northeast, the upper midwest, and along the Pacific coast. Deer and mice are both reservoirs of the tick and of course people who live near the wood or who frequent the woods are likely to come in contact with ticks.
Lyme disease usually progresses in three stages.
Stage one is the early localized stage and is charactized by a painless, flat, red lesion that appears at the bite site. Sometimes this will appear as a ringlike rash that spreads outward. The outer border remains bright red and the center becomes clear or blue, giving it the so called “bull’s eye” rash. This rash will usually disappear in time, whether the person is treated or not. At this early stage, the patient might start complaining of headache, malaise, and muscle aches.
The next stage of this disease is termed the early disseminated stage; this is when the spirochete spreads to the skin, heart, nervous system, and the joints. The patient can at this stage develop cardiac conduction defects and other cardiac abnormalities. The patient might also develop meningitis or Bell’s palsy.
More on Lyme disease next week, but in the meantime use plenty of insect repellent and promptly screen for ticks.