Lyme is 'not the only game in town'

Study finds 'high prevalence' of infected ticks in Milford: Mikki Weiss works to raise awareness of diseases endemic to the area


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  • Mikki Weiss shows materials created to help Pike residents understand the complexity of tick borne diseases. (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • Mikki Weiss shared this photo taken of herself in the hospital in 2016, after breaking her eye socket and several fingers when she passed out in the middle of the night. "This represents what can happen when one lives with tick-borne diseases," she said.





PREVENTION AND CONTROL

The best advice for preventing Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases is to:
Wear protective light-colored clothing while outdoors, including a broad-brimmed hat, a long-sleeved shirt, and long pants tucked into the socks;
Check the body daily for the presence of ticks;
Use tick repellents, DEET, or permethrins;
Use forceps or tweezers to carefully remove ticks attached to the skin. Apply gentle, constant retraction of the tick where it attaches to the skin (not the body of the tick);
Seek immediate medical attention if signs or symptoms or early Lyme disease appear.
The best way to avoid attachment of a blacklegged tick is to stay out of wooded or brushy areas in known Lyme disease counties. This option is not always realistic. Repellents such as DEET (N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide) offer considerable protection if applied to clothing and exposed skin. Because of recent concern over adverse reactions in a few individuals, sprays with no more than 35 percent DEET are recommended. An effective acaricide, Permanone, contains the synthetic pyrethroid permethrin and is applied as a spray to clothing. It is not approved for use on skin. Long-sleeved shirts and long pants tucked into socks also aid in preventing tick bites. Light-colored clothing helps to detect the dark-colored tick provided the wearer inspects for ticks intermittently.
Hunters and hikers increase their risk of encountering a blacklegged tick by following deer trails and by resting on the forest floor. Studies in New York have shown that a high density of nymphal blacklegged ticks is present in leaf litter. Adult ticks more often are collected from narrow forest trails than from general sites throughout the forest, and they are more prevalent in high, brushy vegetation .
Hunters should be cautious when harvesting deer. The urine, blood, and liver could carry the spirochetes, which can enter through cuts in the hands, although this is highly unlikely. Cooking destroys the bacteria and eliminates any danger of getting Lyme disease from eating venison. There are no documented cases of transmission through handling or consuming deer flesh.
Self-examination is recommended after spending time in infested areas. If an embedded tick is found, it should be removed with fine tweezers by grasping the head and pulling with steady firm pressure. The tick should not be grabbed in the middle of its body because the gut contents may be expelled into the skin. The use of heat (lit match, cigarette, etc.), or petroleum jelly is NOT recommended to force the tick out. These methods will irritate the tick, and may cause it to regurgitate its stomach contents into the individual, thereby increasing the possibility of infection.
Source: PennState Extension: extension.psu.edu


By Frances Ruth Harris

— Lyme disease is still a big deal, says advocate Mikki Weiss. But it's no longer the only game in town.

She says what you don't know about tick borne diseases and the pathogens they harbor can kill you. Very often, an entire family gets infected. Weiss, who was herself afflicted, said this can translate to loss of income and even one's value as a person. People with cancer or HIV who contract a tick-borne disease may find their illness accelerating, she said.

She showed a photo of herself in the hospital.

"This occurred on Aug. 10, 2016," she said. "I passed out at 2 a.m. when I hit my face on the edge of a wicker couch. This represents what can happen when one lives with tick-borne diseases. I've lived with three tick-borne diseases since 2011. My eye socket and several fingers were broken. I incurred $100,000 of diagnostic testing resulting with no findings, which commonly can happen with tick borne diseases."

Weiss is CEO, president and founder of the Tick Borne Diseases (TBD) Support Network. She's helping tristate residents understand the complexity of tick borne diseases and how they affect people's lives. Faye P. Lukin, the communications consultant volunteer to the TBD Support Network, had Weiss as a teacher in the seventh grade 52 years ago. The complexity stems from the fact that there are many species of ticks that carry many diseases. According to the PennState College of Agricultural Sciences, Pennsylvania alone has four different disease-carrying ticks that are vectors for six diseases that have occurred in the state (see sidebar).

Weiss said Bartonella, also known as cat scratch fever, can be just as devastating as Lyme, and also can be transmitted to an unborn child. In the first-ever study of black-legged ticks and infection rates in Milford borough, completed in February, seven tested positive for Bartonella. Thirty-seven black-legged ticks tested positive for Borrelia burgdorferi, which can affect the heart, bones, and nervous system if left untreated; and four for Babesia microti (Babesiosis), a relatively mild tick-borne illness that can cause flu-like symptoms. Three ticks in the borough tested positive for both.

Overall, 45 percent of ticks collected in the borough, at sites frequented by people and pets, tested positive for at least one pathogen, according to the report. It characterized the rate of tick-borne disease in the borough as a "high prevalence," and said future studies will be done to determine the presence of yet more tick-borne diseases, including anaplasmosis, Borrelia miyamotoi, and Powassan virus.

Prevention is keyWeiss said tick borne-diseases can manifest their presence in the human body after lying dormant for years. Prevention is the key, she said, with proper follow-up after outdoors experiences (see sidebar).

The TBD Support Network received a grant from the Greater Pike Foundation to create resource material for patients in support group. It lists a number of issues that must be considered in fighting these diseases:

Impact on family

Health insurance

Pharmaceuticals

Medical treatment controversy

Medical education

Diagnosis and pathogen load

Symptoms

Immune system and nutrition

Patient responsibility

Co-infection

Governmental-political

Medical professional and research scientists

Funding for medical research

Upcoming meetingsThe TBD support group will meet from 10:30 a.m. to noon on Saturday, May 12, in the community room of the Pike County Library to share stories about living with TBD.

The community is invited to attend a meeting from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 17, to listen to a presentation of the survey conducted by the Northeast Wildlife DNA Lab. The Tick Borne Diseases (TBD) support group's hotline, 570-503-6334, offers guidance and information.





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