Before You Grow: Educator gives first-hand account of Lyme disease
By Marcus McCartney
OSU Extension Educator
Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne disease in the United States. Lyme disease is caused by a specific bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi. It is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks, commonly known in our area as deer ticks. Here in the mid-Ohio valley, we are experiencing an outbreak of Lyme disease. Currently, 1 in 12 dogs test positive for Lyme. My little dog, Bella, is one of these dogs and she is how I contracted Lyme disease. Sometimes Bella sleeps at the foot of my bed. A tick crawled off her and onto my foot, biting me and injecting the bacterial disease into my bloodstream, changing my life forever. My experience with Lyme disease had a detrimental effect on me and my family. I contracted the neurological disease in late 2018. Even though I have fully recovered, my family dynamics were forever changed.
Towards the end of 2018, I started to feel off or sick. At first, I dismissed how I felt and thought it was nothing more than a cold or virus. However, as time went by, I never recovered from the initial sickness and slowly my health deteriorated. My symptoms included: severe fatigue, increased blood pressure, weak muscles, extreme light-headedness, and it was hard to sit up for extended periods of time. I felt disconnected, like my head was in a constant state of fog. I never developed the bulls-eye rash associated with Lyme’s disease nor could I recall even having a black legged tick on me. Before I was able to get an accurate diagnosis the standard Lyme disease test kept coming back as negative and my supposedly “diagnosis” kept coming back as the same thing, a sinus infection. After I personally took antibiotics for seventy-six days, I was finally given a prescription of doxycycline, the antibiotic for Lyme disease, for a 28-day cycle. Towards the end of my 28th day, I finally started to feel better after four months of barely functioning. Being able to function again was such a huge relief and blessing. Life seemed normal again.
During my ordeal with Lyme Disease, this is when I learned there was an outbreak in our area. Now when I am outside, I make sure I take preventive measures, so I do not contract this disease again. This experience has given me a tremendous respect for tick vector diseases as well as those animals who consume these ticks, like opossums. My advice is whenever you are outside, especially in wooded or high grass areas, please protect yourself from ticks and always check yourself when you come back inside. My experience with Lyme disease is, no matter how healthy you are, this disease will bring you down rapidly and affect every aspect of your life; potentially life changing as in my case.
If you have been outside working on your garden or lawn, even this time of year because black-legged ticks (deer ticks) are active almost year-round, and find a tick attached on your body, you should not throw it away after you properly remove it. You should identify which tick species was attached to you because certain species of ticks carry certain diseases. You can bring your tick to the OSU Extension office for an accurate identification. After identifying the tick, you should keep the tick in case you to feel ill. Stored ticks in your refrigerator or freezer for a few months or send it to a lab to test for disease. In conclusion, protect yourself as tick-vector diseases are significantly increasing.
Marcus McCartney is the OSU Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator for Washington County. He has been with extension since 2014. Marcus received both his bachelor’s and Master’s degree from West Virginia University Agriculture Education.