It is that time of the year again when we grab our families and friends and head out into nature. Whether you like backpacking the backcountry or white water rafting, or just sunbathing in your backyard, one thing that can always put a damper on summer fun are the insects, especially disease carrying ticks. We just heard a story about a farmer who died from a tick bite, and you are not going to believe what the Center for Disease Control has to say about it.
We are all familiar with the dangers posed by the insidious Lyme disease, including the fatigue, nausea, rashes, swollen joints, and facial palsy, all from a tiny tick bite. As unqualifiedly awful as all that sounds, The Center for Disease Control now says we have yet another tick borne illness to worry about, and this one is a killer.
Last year, a farmer in Bourbon County, Kansas was bitten by a tick and later died from an unknown pathogen.
It took the CDC six months to figure it out, but they have announced the arrival of a new disease: Bourbon virus, so named for the location it first appeared.
Dr. Dana Hawkinson of the University of Kansas Hospital says “Its genome is similar to viruses that have been found in eastern Europe, Africa and Asia, but no virus like that has ever been identified in the western hemisphere, certainly nothing we’ve ever seen here.”
Some symptoms include anorexia, fever, and muscle aches. The disease has also proven to be highly resistant to antibiotics.
This case reminds us of another recent story about an relatively unknown disease called tick paralysis.
On the evening of May 13, while Amanda Lewis of La Grande, Oregon, was bathing her daughter when the child became temperamental and refused to stand up. By the next morning the little girl was having problems moving. She could barely stand up on her own and walking or even crawling was almost beyond her ability.
Amanda and her husband took some video of their daughter, Evelyn, and sent it to some family members to see if anyone recognized the symptoms. Before anyone could offer their opinions, Evelyn became so sick that the panic stricken parents finally rushed her to the emergency room.
During her examination, the doctor was able to find a tick hiding in the toddler’s scalp.
Amanda Lewis posted the ordeal on Facebook, saying “The doctor talked to us for a minute and said over the past 15 years he had seen about 7 or 8 children her age with identical symptoms and more than likely she had a tick. They looked her over, combed through her hair really well and sure enough found a tick hiding in her hair. This condition is called tick paralysis. It can affect dogs also and can be fatal. I’m glad we took her in when we did and that it wasn’t something worse and that we found it before it got worse.”
According to the American Lyme Disease Foundation, tick paralysis can affect a person’s use of their muscles and includes such symptoms as numbness in the extremities, and muscle and joint pain. In more severe cases, patients can experience severe respiratory distress. It is not caused by an infectious organism, but by a neurotoxin produced in the tick’s salivary gland. Young children are especially susceptible to the effects of this neurotoxin and it has a mortality rate of almost twelve percent.
While there is no vaccine, the best method for avoiding tick bites is to wear protective clothing and Deet based insect repellents when venturing into areas like open fields and hiking trails, and even when sunbathing in your own backyard.
Have you or someone you’ve known contracted an insect borne disease like Bourbon virus or Lyme Disease?