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More than 1/3 of Franklin County ticks carry Lyme disease

Ticks are best removed with a pointy pair of tweezers, according to the TickEncounter Resource Center of the University of Rhode Island. Pinch the tick near the head, close to your skin, and slowly pull it upward.
File photo

Ticks are best removed with a pointy pair of tweezers, according to the TickEncounter Resource Center of the University of Rhode Island. Pinch the tick near the head, close to your skin, and slowly pull it upward. File photo

More than a third of ticks collected in 10 Franklin County towns so far this season have tested positive for Lyme disease.

“We are finding Lyme to be highly prevalent in Franklin County, but we also know it to be a very preventable illness,” said Lisa White, public health nurse for the Franklin County Cooperative Public Health Service.

Lyme disease was found in 37 percent of the 154 ticks collected by the Tick-Borne Disease Network in 10 Franklin County towns, with 45 coming from Conway, 43 from Deerfield and 30 from Gill. Another 3.25 percent tested positive for anaplasmosis and 1.95 percent carried babesiosis.

Lyme disease can cause fatigue, headache and fever, and in later stages can affect the heart and nervous system. Anaplasmosis can cause muscle aches, fatigue, headaches, fever and chills. Babesiosis is a parasite that infects red blood cells and can causes flu-like symptoms.

White encourages people to be ever-vigilant against the arachnids, checking themselves, their children and their pets for ticks every day.

Megan Hawkins of Shelburne contracted Lyme disease last summer.

“I was so lethargic, I just wanted to sleep all the time,” she recalled. “I could maintain my job, but at the end of the day I would just go home and sleep.”

She was treated with antibiotics and is feeling much better.

When she found a tick on herself this spring, she sent it in for testing. Within a week, she had a result; the tick she plucked from her upper back was infected with Lyme.

Hawkins went to her doctor, and was given two pills of antibiotic to head the disease off at the pass.

Early detection and treatment can prevent the disease from progressing and producing more and worse effects.

Hawkins’ son was bitten years ago before a trip to Europe, and wasn’t treated until about two months after the bite. He needed a month-long course of antibiotics, she said.

“He said he felt old and decrepit, with achy muscles and joints, and he couldn’t catch up on his sleep. It took him about a year to recover.”

What to do

If it’s caught soon enough, a tick can be removed before it’s had a chance to transfer the disease. The bloodsucking bugs can easily go unnoticed, though, and sometimes they aren’t found until they’ve drunk their fill.

If you find a tick, don’t throw it away once you’ve removed it. You can ease your mind or confirm your fears by having it tested. If the tick tests positive for Lyme, you can discuss further testing and treatment with your doctor.

Ticks are best removed with a pointy pair of tweezers, according to the TickEncounter Resource Center of the University of Rhode Island. Pinch the tick near the head, close to your skin, and slowly pull it upward.

Once it’s removed, put the tick in a sandwich bag and go to www.tickreport.com to find out how to have it tested.

If you live in a CPHS member town, and you’ve been bitten, you can have your tick tested free to see if you should be treated for the disease. Residents of other towns must pay to have their ticks tested.

CPHS towns include Buckland, Charlemont, Conway, Deerfield, Gill, Hawley, Heath, Leyden, Monroe and Shelburne.

Tests are done by the Laboratory of Medical Zoology of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. The program is only interested in testing ticks that have bitten people, so don’t try to trap them.

It is possible for a Lyme-infected tick to bite someone without passing on the disease.

“The tick has to empty the contents of its stomach into your blood for you to be exposed,” explained Phoebe Walker, director of community services for the Franklin Regional Council of Governments.

Just how long that takes is uncertain, said Walker, and could be as little as four hours or as long as 48, depending on the doctor you ask.

You can reach David Rainville at: drainville@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 279 On Twitter, follow @RecorderRain

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