January 01, 1900

Health and Safety: Tick season still a big concern

Source: NYSUT Health and Safety news

Now that spring is here, it's a good time to remember preventive actions that protect against tick-borne illness.

Ticks can pass several disease-causing organisms that cause symptoms. Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne illness in the U.S.

Reported cases of Lyme disease continue to rise at an alarming rate—by 39 percent from 2006 to 2007. Increases have especially been seen in children. According to the CDC, 10 times more cases of Lyme disease occur than are reported. If undiscovered, Lyme disease can result in devastating illness and disability. Yet, symptoms are often mistaken for other medical problems.

A life changing story

Marc Peimer is a Work-Based Learning Coordinator at Capital Region BOCES and a member of the Capital Region BOCES Faculty Association. An avid outdoorsman, he enjoys camping and mountain climbing. Last June he developed a sharp pain in the left side of his face. He was diagnosed with neuralgia and began treatment. Marc then developed a red rash on his face and the pain moved down his jaw to his mouth. He was put on medication for shingles and additional tests were done to rule out other problems. The facial pain became severe and the rash spread. Marc awoke one morning with the left side of his face paralyzed. He called the doctor, who made an over-the-phone diagnosis of Bells palsy caused by Lyme disease. A blood test confirmed it. He went on a three-week regimen of antibiotics.

Marc and his doctor realized that the "rash" he had on his face was actually the "bull's eye" rash so common with Lyme.

Last summer he experienced many of the traditional effects of Lyme disease, including long-lasting body sensations of the "creepy crawlies," sharp pains in different locations, extreme itching for short periods in various places, total exhaustion and more.

Almost a year later, he still has issues from the Bells palsy, including numbness in his face, issues with his left eye and lack of taste for certain foods. Continued Lyme disease symptoms include "vibrations" in the chest and thighs, and sharp pains that limit some movement. Even though he felt like he was in good shape, this past winter Marc was not able to complete any High Peaks, still lacking the energy needed for these climbs. He's improving, but the impact of the disease was greater than he thought and the recovery is taking much longer than he hoped. Although he loves the sun, Mark avoided it last summer because his medication really increased sun sensitivity.

Advice for others

Marc isn't sure when he was bitten by a tick. The bite could have occurred a few weeks to a few months before symptoms started. Prior to his symptoms, he helped a friend clear small trees and bushes and hiked in the woods several times a month. Marc always checked his arms and legs, but thinks the tick probably bit his face, and remained hidden in his beard. It's a place he never thought of. He says, "Remember to check for ticks where they are least likely to be found."

He doesn't blame his doctor for not thinking of Lyme disease early on, but has this advice for others: "If you have been outdoors and are having symptoms that do not really fit any specific category, be sure to ask for a Lyme disease blood test. I would have saved significant time, energy, discomfort and health care costs if the test was done sooner."

Free online training available

The Lyme Disease Association has a free educational online module: "How A Tick Can Make You Sick: Lyme Disease Prevention Lesson for Children and Adults." It includes a four-section slide show module designed for grades 6- through-adult. The presentation can be opened for viewing or printed, has pre- and post-tests and an audible pronunciation guide. A resource section is also included. The LDA offers this module free and recommends its use by schools, scouts, park systems and the public.

Find it at: lymediseaseassociation.org/ledu_home.html