Don’t forget to Tick Check

Tick check

Even though winter weather has been ramping up, I’ve been finding ticks on the horses recently and am vigilant about removing them as soon as I find them. The problem is, I forgot to check me.

This nasty little bug was on my back, probably for several days. Safely out of sight, he  gorged himself until my husband found it.

So, what are the chances of getting Lyme disease from a tick? Given how many ticks I’ve pulled off the horses, only twice have I had to treat a horse for a tick borne disease. Freedom has twice been diagnosed with an active Lyme infection.

According to Thomas Mather, a professor of public health entomology at University of Rhode Island and the director of Tick Encounter,

As it turns out, the chance of catching Lyme disease from an individual tick ranges from zero to roughly 50 percent, according to Mather. The exact probability depends on three factors: the tick species, where it came from and how long the tick was feeding.

Lyme disease is carried by deer ticks. In the Northeast, where I live, up to 50% of deer ticks are carrying Lyme disease. That’s among the highest infection rates, although it’s lower than I’d imagined. Other diseases carried by deer ticks are Babesiosis (also called Nantucket fever), Ehrlichiosis and Anaplasmosis. Guess what? Your disease-carrying tick can infect you with several of these bacteria, not just one!

How long the tick is attached also determines if you become infected. However, the estimates for the infection time vary. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that:

In most cases, the tick must be attached for 36 to 48 hours or more before the Lyme disease bacterium can be transmitted.

Alison Hinckley, a CDC epidemiologist specializing in Lyme disease, said several studies show that a tick “needs to be attached for 48 to 72 hours to even be able to transmit the infection to a person.”

In my case, the tick was attached for several days, so if the tick was infected, the likelihood of transmission was reasonably high.

I had my tick removed by my doctor, who prescribed antibiotics. The tick has been sent off to a lab to be tested but given the high risk factors of my bite (in addition, I have a history of bacterial infections that can get out of control quickly), it seems like the safest course of action.

Many, many of my friends and family members who live in New England have been diagnosed with Lyme, including my husband. He had the classic bulls eye rash (which I don’t(. But then again, the only other time I was diagnosed with Lyme disease, I never saw the tick and I never had the rash. I caught it early because of the swelling around the bite, which prompted a doctor’s visit.

So, when you’re checking your dog or horse for ticks (cats don’t get Lyme disease), don’t forget to check yourself.


5 thoughts on “Don’t forget to Tick Check

  1. I will add my 2 cents. Years ago I found a Tick between two fingers, and I know it was there less than a day. I still got infected with Lyme, and to this day I can feel the weather changing before the weatherman talks about it. My lower arm get sore and irritable for a day or two

    1. It sounds like you are a more reliable predictor of the weather than most of the professionals! The other issue with Lyme treatment is how long you should take doxy. My doctor told me current thinking is 3 weeks, but when Freedom had it last year, we treated for 90 days. I’m planning to take it for a month.

  2. Good luck. Lyme is no picnic. I absolutely loathe ticks. They’re blood suckers, like mosquitoes, but the mosquito at least tells she’s coming for you. Ticks are sneaky.
    I hope, when you pulled the tick off, that you got all the mouth parts out. I found a tick in a VERY PRIVATE part of my anatomy, only after dislodging part of it in the shower. By the way, I think it had been there at least two days, as that was the last time I’d been in the woods. And I’d showered twice since then. I instinctively pulled the tick out, but when you do it wrong, the mouth parts remain. I had to get them removed by a nurse.

    Gads. I should do a post about ticks. One thing folks don’t realize it that the damned things can float. My husband was in Florida a few years ago, on a side channel of the St. Johns River, and saw the water (nice and still) was covered with live, floating ticks.

    1. This one was so deeply embedded that I had my dermatologist remove it. He had to numb the area and cut it out to make sure that he got it all. This was not a DIY removal.

  3. I’m so sorry. It’s bad enough that they’re out there, now they’re increasing in numbers due to climate change AND carrying this nasty disease. If it’s any consolation at all, we now know that Lyme disease has been around for years, and is in Europe as well.
    However, …and it may be in your area of NE, wildlife biologists have been trying an experiment where they put out mouse bait laced with an antibiotic that will prevent them from carrying Lyme disease. I believe it’s an antibiotic, actually, come to think of it, it’s not that at all but they’ve done some genetic tinkering and made mice that are incapable of carrying the disease. So far they’ve only been dropping mice off on an island..but it’s a start. Unfortunately, the local people don’t like the idea of mice purposefully being introduced…but the mice have been there all this time, it’s not like the island is mouse free.

    Keep a good eye on yourself.

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