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Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Health District Ticks Off Tick Dangers

By James Lomuscio

While the wet summer has caused a proliferation of hungry mosquitoes at dusk and dawn, the West Nile virus is not yet a worry.

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Ticks come in all sizes.  Cdc.gov photo

The big concern right now is deer ticks, and it’s not just Lyme disease, but illnesses far more frightening, according to Mark Cooper, director of the Westport Weston Health District (WWHD).

Just back from a workshop at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven, WWHD Director of Community Health Monica Wheeler said deer ticks can carry several other organisms and viruses that make Lyme pale in comparison.

One is babesiosis, which can cause malaria-like symptoms of cyclical fevers. Unlike Lyme, for which treatment requires a regimen of the heavy-duty antibiotic doxycycline, babeseosis requires anti-malaria drugs and quinine, as well as antibiotics, Wheeler said.

Another organism present in deer ticks is anaplasmosis, “an organism very similar to Lyme,” only it targets the white blood cells, causing them to increase in number.

Another virus is borrelia miyamatoi. Like Lyme, infection symptoms include fever, headache, joint pain and fatigue, and severe neurological complications have been recorded, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, Ga.

Wheeler said another very rare and potentially lethal illness is the Powassan virus.

“Only 60 cases recorded in the United States, none in Connecticut,” she said.

“There was a case in New York where somebody died,” Wheeler said about the virus that attacks the central nervous system, causing meningitis and encephalitis.

According to the CDC, most of the Powassan cases over the past decade cases have occurred in the Northeast and Great Lakes region. Signs of infection can include fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, seizures and memory loss.

“You can only treat it supportively,” Wheeler said.

That means intravenous fluids and medications to reduce brain swelling, as well as respiratory support.

For local residents heading to the Hamptons or Long Island’s east end, Wheeler also cautioned about “the Lone Star tick” present there, “and it’s moving north.”

“It has a bright, white star on it, and it carries a southern tick associated rash illness similar to Lyme, only a much bigger rash.”

Despite potential tick risks, Cooper and Wheeler say the last thing they want to do is to scare people indoors, but to use common sense precautions when gardening, cutting the lawn or hiking.

“We want to encourage people to get out and be active to combat obesity, to get off the couch,” Cooper said.

“Just make sure to cover exposed skin and use insect repellents if you are working in the garden. Use some common sense, the same way you should to protect against West Nile in late summer.”

Late summer and early fall are when cases of West Nile are typically reported, Cooper said.

Wheeler said hikers, for example, should stay in sunny areas and on paths “and do a daily tick check no matter where you’re traveling.”

“Make it a habit if you’re outside, cutting the lawn or in the garden,” she said. “The first thing you should do when you come inside is to take your clothes off and put them in the dryer.

“That will kill the ticks because they don’t like dry heat, and it doesn’t give the ticks enough time to bite you.”

“It’s also recommend you get into a shower within two hours of coming in,” Wheeler added. “My recommendation is to do it right away. It’s the most effective personal protective measure.”

Cooper said that if one spots a tick and removes it, instead of flushing it down the toilet, he or she should take it to the WWHD, which will send it out to be tested for different viruses.

For further information, call (203) 222-3875.

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Posted 07/01/15 at 04:46 PM  Permalink



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