An insect expert was traveling the state to warn counties and veterinarians about an increase in deer ticks, 10TV’s Kristyn Hartman reported on Monday.
Fifteen years ago, deer ticks were unheard of in Ohio. Now 26 counties, including Franklin and Delaware, are on the watch list
The black legged deer tick, which can be as small as a poppy seed, can carry Lyme disease.
If bites are diagnosed early, the illness can be easily treated with antibiotics. If missed, it can mean years of misery, Hartman reported.
Paige Caulley said that she discovered that first hand.
"We think I was bit when I was really, really young," said Caulley, 27.
Caulley grew up in Connecticut, where Lyme disease was more common. She said that she knew many classmates who had gotten the illness.
The Powell resident said that she has suffered from health problems throughout her life but never associated them with Lyme disease.
Caulley said that the problems grew worse after her daughter was born 18 months ago.
"I had a family doctor who just told me I need to start exercising. And that I need to see a therapist. And that it was all in my head. And I was in so much pain that I could barely walk," Caulley said.
Caulley looked to many doctors for help before finding a specialist in New York.
Now, Caulley makes monthly trips to New York, takes a variety of pills and gives herself a daily intravenous drip of antibiotics. Her medical bills exceed $50,000.
Glen Needham, an entomologist at the Ohio State University, who works with the state health department, travels the state warning county health departments and veterinarians that ticks are on the march across Ohio.
"We've gone from what we believe were no counties with black legged ticks, to two counties, to 26 counties," he said.
Hunters brought deer heads to the state lab for tick checks. In one year, numbers ballooned from 29 ticks to 1,800, Hartman reported.
“Dogs will be kind of canary in the cave for us.” Needham said. "So we think dogs may get Lyme Disease first in the state. And that may alert us to where some of these hot spots are," Needham said.
The infection is first identified by a bull’s-eye rash that many people may not notice.
Those infected could have a few days of flu-like symptoms, then feel better. But the disease does not go away. It could spread into the heart, the joints, and the nervous system.
Caulley thought that is what happened to her. Now she faces four more months of an IV antibiotic and a struggle to feel well, but a struggle that she thought was worth it, Hartman reported.
"I'm like 50 percent better," Caulley said.
Needham says Lyme disease may be difficult to diagnose, because patients experience a variety of symptoms. To cut the risk of getting sick, he said people should spray skin and clothes with an insecticide containing DEET.
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