Summer always brings a proliferation of ticks to Tennessee, and along with them come serious risks. Tick bites can cause serious and debilitating conditions.
Terry Nunley knows too well the dangers of tick bites. After being bitten by hundreds of ticks when walking through an overgrown area, he spent weeks of recovery after contracting Lyme disease and Ehrlichia chaffeensis.
Says Nunley, “I was just covered from head to toe. I had them in my hair, on my legs.” Removing the ticks took hours. Nunley had used an insect repellant, but it’s often not effective against ticks.
Over a week after being bitten, symptoms began to appear. Nunley experienced serious pain, saying, “You couldn’t even touch me I hurt so badly. It was terrific pain, unreal pain that I had.”
Initially seeking treatment and not receiving a diagnosis at a hospital in another county, Nunley visited his doctor who immediately sent him to River Park Hospital.
Once there, tests did not immediately show any reason for the illness. River Park then contacted the Centers for Disease Control, which diagnosed Nunley.
After being admitted to the hospital, Nunley’s symptoms became much more severe. His bladder and kidneys shut down and his white cell count became seriously low. He experienced intense pain, shaking, high fever, and memory loss. A rigorous course of antibiotics and pain medication was used to treat him.
After two weeks Nunley was released, but still required another two weeks of at-home care. Although still suffering from memory loss, most of his symptoms have disappeared. It is not known if either of the conditions could return.
Nunley was extremely complimentary of his hospital experience at River Park saying, “I feel people need to know we have a really good hospital with a fantastic staff. I recommend this hospital 100 percent.”
Lyme disease is the most common tick-transmitted illness in America and is spread by the deer tick. According to the American Lyme Disease Foundation, it is considered rare in Tennessee.
Initial indicators are a rash and flu-like symptoms. If left untreated, this can worsen into severe joint pain and neurological problems. The disease can be successfully treated with antibiotics.
Echrlichia chaffeensis is transmitted by the lone star tick. Relatively uncommon, symptoms include fever, headache, chills, nausea and confusion. This is a serious illness that can be fatal, with a 1.8 percent fatality rate.
As with Lyme disease, the condition can be treated with antibiotics, with treatment lasting as long as 14 days. Some suffers experience symptoms for weeks after successful treatment.
If bitten by a tick, watch for possible symptoms and visit your doctor if you suspect you might be infected. The key to lessening the severity of a tick borne illness is to seek treatment as soon as possible. A rash is usually an early indicator of these diseases.
Prevention is important. Wear long sleeved shirts and long pants if you are going to be in a tick-prone area. Repellants with DEET or permethrin are suggested. Carefully check for ticks and remove them as quickly as possible.
Nunley’s experience is likely a worst-case scenario, but the dangers of tick-transmitted illnesses are real.