Monday, February 19, 2018
Health

Tread lightly in deer tick territory to prevent Lyme disease

Last weekend I traveled to Roanoke, Va., and celebrated a college graduation at a home in the mountains.

As I talked to my friend Teresa, she brushed a hand across her hairline. "Oh, look. A tick," she said calmly.

Teresa, a hospital infectious disease nurse manager, had no trouble identifying the tiny culprit, slightly smaller than a grain of rice. She suggested everyone check themselves for deer ticks, common in the woods there.

Deer ticks and the potentially serious disease some of them spread, Lyme disease, are not as plentiful in Florida as in points North. But it's worth knowing how to identify them and what to do about them, particularly if you travel in the summer, the height of tick season.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2011, 96 percent of Lyme disease cases were found in just 13 states including New Jersey, New York, Maine, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and, yes, Virginia. Some of those states report thousands of cases.

In Florida, we had 78 confirmed cases of Lyme in 2011. Last year in Pinellas there were three cases, with slightly more in Hillsborough. "Very few of those are acquired in Florida," said Michael Wiese, epidemiologist with the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County.

Some but not all people infected with Lyme disease develop a distinctive skin lesion that looks like a bull's eye target: a small red dot in the center at the site of the bite, surrounded by a clear area, then a red ring. It can take days or weeks for this bull's eye rash to appear. It may start out small and get larger as the infection spreads and may appear on several different areas of the body. Other symptoms include fever, headache, stiff neck, body aches and fatigue.

Without proper treatment, some people may develop facial drooping, memory issues, numbness, tingling and heart rhythm problems.

Since many symptoms mimic the flu, diagnosis can be difficult, and so official statistics may underestimate the problem. Without the skin lesion, it's important to tell your doctor if you've been to wooded areas where ticks, deer or Lyme disease are common.

"Half to two-thirds of those infected will develop that skin rash. If you get that and you've been in the woods, there's a good likelihood that it's Lyme's," said Dr. Douglas Holt, director of the Hillsborough County Health Department and director of the infectious disease division of USF Health.

Two blood tests are given that check for specific antibodies to the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. It can take a few weeks for the antibodies to develop.

"You need both tests, plus tick exposure and recollection of the other symptoms to confirm a diagnosis," said Dr. Holt. "It can be challenging. Without the skin rash, it's not easy to diagnose."

According to the CDC, the tick must be attached to its human host for at least 36 hours to transmit Lyme disease. But unless you find the tick, you may not be aware of its painless bite — so check yourself.

If you may have been exposed, watch for Lyme disease symptoms. Promptly caught, the usual treatment is oral antibiotics; more serious cases may require intravenous antibiotics.

While we don't have a lot of Lyme disease in Florida, Dr. Holt says, it's still important to be aware of it, especially if you visit the forested areas of Central and Northern Florida.

"Our biggest problem here is mosquitoes," he said. These critters can be worse than annoying when they carry diseases such as rare-but-serious Eastern equine encephalitis.

So, yes, be aware of Lyme disease, he said, but also "use your insect repellent when going outdoors."

Irene Maher can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Be prepared to help save a life: Learn CPR

Be prepared to help save a life: Learn CPR

70 percent of cardiac arrests outside hospitals happen at home. American Heart Association 3 a.m. Jan. 4, 2016. Lisa Peters of St. Petersburg is awakened by her husband, Rick, making strange gasping sounds. She can’t wake him. He feels cold. Only 46...
Published: 02/16/18

Step by step, ramp up your daily activity

Jae Bermanhe Washington Post There are many reasons that people avoid exercise. Time is an obvious one. Our lives are already busy — who has time to work out? Money is another common excuse. Gym memberships and equipment can get pricey.People often w...
Published: 02/16/18
Put Alaskan king crab leg shells to work in a creamy, dreamy bisque

Put Alaskan king crab leg shells to work in a creamy, dreamy bisque

Nothing says indulgence like noshing on some seriously giant Alaskan king crab legs. They’re not just tasty, they’re a low-fat source of protein: One leg has about 25 grams of protein and a host of vitamins and minerals (including sodium, incidentall...
Published: 02/15/18
Avocado toast gets a persimmon twist

Avocado toast gets a persimmon twist

You’ve likely seen persimmon in the grocery store and then shied away from it, not quite sure what to do with it. The most common variety in the United States is the fuyu persimmon, also called Japanese persimmon, and it looks similar to a slightly f...
Published: 02/15/18
News co-anchor Dan Harris delves into meditation, and why being distracted is ‘a victory’

News co-anchor Dan Harris delves into meditation, and why being distracted is ‘a victory’

Emma Seppalahe Washington PostDan Harris is co-anchor of ABC’s Nightline and the weekend editions of Good Morning America. His first book, 10% Happier, was a No. 1 New York Times bestseller. He later launched the 10% Happier podcast and an app called...
Published: 02/15/18

Mayo Clinic Q&A: exercise stress tests; breast self-awareness versus self-exams

DON’T SWEAT THE EXERCISE STRESS TESTI have a treadmill stress test scheduled to look for heart disease. I know this involves exercising, and I’m worried that I’m not physically up to it. Is there another way to gather this information?Yes. There’s an...
Published: 02/15/18
Gay doctor takes a drug to prevent HIV. Then he couldn’t get disability insurance

Gay doctor takes a drug to prevent HIV. Then he couldn’t get disability insurance

Three years ago, Dr. Philip J. Cheng, a urology resident at Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, nicked himself while preparing an HIV-positive patient for surgery.Following hospital protocol, he took a one-month course of Truvada, a cocktail of t...
Published: 02/15/18
Doctor removes worm from Tampa man’s eye. ‘Luckily we caught it just in time’

Doctor removes worm from Tampa man’s eye. ‘Luckily we caught it just in time’

TAMPA — Nothing seemed wrong or out of place when it was time for Sam Cordero to make an appointment for a routine eye exam.The 57-year-old man from Tampa occasionally saw a few bright or foggy spots in his left eye, but thought it was just "floaters...
Published: 02/14/18
Updated: 02/15/18
A couple calls to ask, ‘Hey, can we donate our kidneys?’ The stranger who got one is in awe

A couple calls to ask, ‘Hey, can we donate our kidneys?’ The stranger who got one is in awe

LARGO — Keshava Persaud entered the room inside Largo Medical Center, his wife at his side. His eyes went right to the couple across the room. They looked so young, he thought. Tears welled as he handed the woman, April Scott, 49, potted white silk f...
Published: 02/14/18
Bayfront Health system gets new leader

Bayfront Health system gets new leader

Bayfront Health has hired a new executive position to oversee the six regional hospitals it operates along the Gulf Coast of Florida. Joseph Mullany has been appointed regional president and chief executive officer of Bayfront Health, and will overse...
Published: 02/13/18