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One In Three Newtown Ticks Test Positive For Disease

Published: May 31, 2019 at 07:00 am

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Never mind allergies — in Newtown, tick season is running full blast. And it is giving local health officials reason to remind residents about a different kind of BLAST that could help save them and their loved ones from the effects of a tickborne disease.

The Newtown Health District has notified The Newtown Bee that as of May 28, 90 ticks have already brought to its offices. And of the 40 results that have come back, about one in three have tested positive for one or more tickborne illnesses, including Lyme, Babesia, and Anaplasmosis.

“We’re hearing more from the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station that they are seeing more and more co-infections,” said local Health District Director Donna Culbert, referring to more than one illness being communicated to human hosts by ticks pulled off of state residents. “That’s why it’s so important to do a thorough tick check every time you go outside.”

The next best prevention, MS Culbert said, is to try and remove the tick before it attaches or as soon as possible once it has attached — and if it has, bring it in to be tested.

“The thing that keeps me up nights is how people are removing ticks and aren’t getting tested,” Ms Culbert said. “And everyone in Newtown should be practicing their BLAST behavior.”

Newtown and the Health District, which also serves neighboring Roxbury and Bridgewater, was one of the early promoters of a tickborne disease prevention regiment identified as BLAST. BLAST signifies a series of behaviors that should be practiced whenever tick exposure may occur.

The BLAST acronym stands for:

Bathe within two hours of outdoor activity

Look for ticks and rashes daily

Apply repellents to skin and clothing

Spray the yard and maintain a tick-safe landscape

Treat pets with veterinarian-recommended products

According to the Ridgefield-based Lyme Connection, these points highlight the most effective evidence-based recommendations for avoiding tick attachments and potential tickborne diseases. In addition to teaching effective prevention practices, the BLAST program raises awareness about the early signs and symptoms of tick-borne illness to promote timely diagnosis and treatment.

Newtown health officials have been taking in several ticks a day in recent weeks, and Ms Culbert said she was disturbed to see as many as 90 since January. She said the testing station is so overloaded with tick analyses right now that results are taking three weeks or longer to come back.

“We send them all to the lab though,” she said. More disturbing are the results.

Among the 40 results that have tested positive, 14 tested positive for Lyme, four tested positive for Anaplasmosis, and one for Babesia. One additional tick was positive for Lyme and Babesia, and another was co-infected with Lyme and Anaplasmosis, she said.

The CDC states that Anaplasmosis is a disease is spread to people by tick bites primarily from the blacklegged tick and the western blacklegged tick. People with anaplasmosis will often have fever, headache, chills, and muscle aches.

Doxycycline is the drug of choice for adults and children of all ages with anaplasmosis.

Babesia infection can range in severity from asymptomatic to life threatening, the CDC says, but the infection is both treatable and preventable.

Because Babesia parasites infect and destroy red blood cells, babesiosis can cause a special type of anemia called hemolytic anemia. This type of anemia can lead to jaundice (yellowing of the skin) and dark urine.

Some people develop nonspecific flu-like symptoms, such as fever, chills, sweats, headache, body aches, loss of appetite, nausea, or fatigue.

Babesiosis can be a severe, life-threatening disease, particularly in people who:

*Do not have a spleen;

*Have a weak immune system for other reasons (such as cancer, lymphoma, or AIDS);

*Have other serious health conditions (such as liver or kidney disease); or

*Are elderly.

Complications of babesiosis can include:

*A low and unstable blood pressure;

*Severe hemolytic anemia (hemolysis);

*A very low platelet count (thrombocytopenia);

*Disseminated intravascular coagulation (also known as “DIC” or consumptive coagulopathy), which can lead to blood clots and bleeding;

*Malfunction of vital organs (such as the kidneys, lungs, and liver); or

*Death.

The CDC states that although many people who are infected with Babesia do not have symptoms, for those who do, effective treatment is available. But remember, treatment decisions should be individualized, especially for patients who have (or are at risk for) severe or relapsing infection.

For ill patients, babesiosis usually is treated for at least seven to ten days with a combination of two prescription medications — typically either Atovaquone plus azithromycin; or Clindamycin plus quinine (this combination is the standard of care for severely ill patients).

If you or someone in your household has been bitten by a tick and the tick is still attached or available, it can be brought to the Newtown Health District at the Municipal Center for testing during weekday business hours 8 am to 4:30 pm.

To access tick bite prevention information or advice on BLAST, contact the Health District at 203-270-4291.

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