Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Cape Cod = Tick Habitat

I consider the risk of deer tick bites one of the disadvantages of living on Cape Cod. There are ticks in the underbrush at Uncle Tim's Bridge, and ticks in the woods. There are even ticks in my garden ...

I have written about ticks and other nasty bugs in the past. Regular readers know I was bitten and remained misdiagnosed for two months in 2005. Drained of all energy, I had to struggle to carry the breakfast tray out to the vintage table and, by July, had decided to limit further reservations that season. Fortunately, I received adequate treatment with doxycycline, eight to ten weeks of it, at the recommendation of an infectious-diseases doctor friend. Then I saw a specialist off-Cape who pronounced me cured. Not feeling 100%, I refused to believe him and sought out alternative care. My whole health doctor explained it was impossible to know whether the spirochete had burrowed into my cells, which is what happens to people who get chronic Lyme. The doctor put me on Cat’s Claw, an herb, and something called Transfer Factor Basics. Since that time, I have experienced no periods of fatigue, so hopefully I do not have chronic Lyme.

I have become paranoid about getting tick bites and always wear Organic Bite Blocker in summer. Last summer I managed to stay tick-free. There were fewer ticks around, thanks to a winter with ice on the ground for three whole weeks. Specialists say ticks hibernate, but the fact is the tick population was down.

Everyone knows how warm it has been this year so far, with buds on the trees despite the freeze last night. Imagine my distress when I discovered a tick on my back yesterday afternoon. Since 24 hours had passed since working in the garden, I knew there was risk of infection with borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme disease). The ticks are active already and specialists are warning about the booming tick population, due to the mild winter.

I had flushed several ticks down the toilet, but this little critter sneaked up on me, although I had sprayed DEET on my shoes and pranced around the garden, never staying in one spot for more than a couple minutes. (Ticks smell a human being and make a beeline towards the smell so movement is one way of confusing them.) I called the alternative care doc, and he has put me back on doxycycline. I’ll have a blood test in five weeks to check on the other diseases ticks can carry.

Lyme is so prevalent on Cape Cod that I warn all guests to do regular tick checks.

Have you ever had Lyme disease? How do you manage to prevent tick bites? Is Lyme disease judged an epidemic where you live?