The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

November 5, 2012

Outdoors Insider, with Dale Sunderlin: Lyme disease a real lemon

By DALE SUNDERLIN
For the Star Beacon

— Just about the time I received a blip from the ODNR on the potential tick problems hunters and outdoors persons face in Ohio, I also received a note from someone who knows first-hand the affects of being bitten by an infested tick and it’s resulting debilitating symptoms.

Please read on and pay attention, no hunter or outdoors person should go through this if they just heed the warning signs:



Hi, Dale,

My name is Janine Kirby. I live in Ashtabula County, I’m a hunter and I have Lyme disease. Sounds like the introduction to a recovery meeting. Ha!

With the hunting season being upon us I would be grateful if you would post a warning to our hunters about the dangers of ticks, fleas, spiders and mosquitoes; these nasty bugs that can carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. Informing them on how to protect themselves from bites the importance of checking their body after coming out of the woods (it’s creepy to know where those things like to hide) and how to properly remove ticks is critical.

You would be surprised by all the misinformation out there that can actually spread the disease all the while just trying to remove the bug. UGH! Also, this is something that is not spoken of at all and I’m surprised it isn’t, how to gut a deer and not get infected.

I am passionate about educating people about the dangers of Lyme. You see, I was misdiagnosed for over a decade and I am very sick now. If treated early, Lyme can be treated effectively, but the longer it’s not diagnosed or treated the poorer the outcome. Oh, how I would love to spare others from going through what I’m going through.



Living with LD

Living on 20 acres has its advantages. Great hunting is one of them. There is nothing like being in the woods on an autumn day with the wind swaying your tree stand and the smell of dried leaves in the air. Although I am never going to be confused with being a master buck slayer, I love the thrill of the hunt.



Unsuspected happening

It may have been one of those days ten years ago that I contracted Lyme disease (LD). I don’t recall being bitten by a tick and I didn’t develop a bull’s eye rash. I may have had flu like symptoms but that was so long ago, who knows now. But what I do know is the devastation a poppy seed-sized insect has on the body.



Initial symptoms

Two years ago after being under a lot of stress, I began to exhibit serious symptoms that frightened me. After developing seasonal bronchial asthma, it progressed to chronic bronchitis. No sooner than the bronchitis was cleared up, it came back again. An emergency room visit for intense chest pain turned out to be Pleurisy. A friend with LD kept telling me that it’s not normal to be sick like that all the time and she thought I had Lyme. I told her, “Just because you have Lyme you think everyone has Lyme.”



More warning signs

Soon other symptoms developed, quickly. Short-term memory loss was one that my family noticed before I did. Balance became an issue and I began to run into walls and fall on occasion. Working out at the gym was embarrassing; as I couldn’t lift the weight I had before. Joint pain, a baker’s cyst behind my knee and heart palpations were obstacles I worked through until it became unbearable.



Don’t wait

I had lived in the cycle of pain and exhaustion for so long that it became the norm.  “Managing the symptoms” did serious damage to my central nervous system. I had pushed my body too far and created the perfect tempest for the Lyme bacteria to grow. After that, exhaustion came quickly; mostly because I had reactive mono and had developed Hoshimoto’s hypothyroidism disease and didn’t know it. When weird-buzzing sensations began in my head I had had enough. Maybe my friend was right maybe I did have Lyme. I made an appointment with a Lyme literate doctor in Pennsylvania and was given a clinical diagnosis of L disease.



Negative (+)?

The doctor ordered extensive blood work that was sent to a firm in California that performed a full panel blood work for LD and its co-infections. My test came back negative (+). Which means only one band was positive and the rest were negative. The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) guidelines require two positive bands for a positive test. And I began oral antibiotics.



A second opinion

I wasn’t getting better and decided to switch doctors and had blood work done again. Six months later, blood work revealed negative (+). But the crazy deal was the band I tested positive in before is now negative and the band that was negative was now positive. UGH!



Unforeseen problems

My medication was changed each month and I was feeling much better and I chose to go off all meds. Within three months I was worse than before. Cognitive skills were declining rapidly. My one hope of getting better was to receive antibiotics through a peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) line. One problem, the insurance company may not cover it without a positive blood test.

There is one other test to get a positive LD diagnosis; a three day urine catch. It’s a shot in the dark. The hope is to pass dead Borrelia Burgdoreri spirochetes (the bacteria that causes L disease) in the urine. You take a specimen once, every other day, three times. Thank the Lord! I finally received a positive diagnosis. Unfortunately the insurance company denied coverage stating the PICC line is experimental without a positive blood test.

It is very possible I may never have a positive blood test. That is what makes Lyme disease so dangerous. There may be hundreds and even thousands of people out in our community who may have gone to well-meaning doctors, had blood work done that came back negative and have LD.



Symptoms, diagnosis

If you or someone you know is chasing symptoms, one day i’ts joint pain on the right side, then the left, or your vision gets funky, stomach problems, then there’s the bad headaches, the list goes on. Oh sure, there’s maybe a chance they are a hypochondriac; or in all actuality they may have Lyme disease. There are over 100 symptoms of LD and no two people are the same.

This disease had been misdiagnosed as Parkinson’s, ALS, MS, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and so on. Lyme disease is easy to get, hard to diagnose and very difficult to treat. What works for one person may not work for another. When co-infections are present, it is even harder to manage.



Take precautions

I’ve had people ask me, “Aren’t you afraid to be in the woods?” Being diagnosed with L disease will not stop me from hunting. The bugs are out there. You just have to take precautions.

Insect repellent with DEET is the number one defense. Tuck your pants into your boots. Check your body (they like warm, moist areas) after being outside.



Tick, tick, tick...

If you find a tick, use rubber gloves and tweezers. Get to the buried head and pull gently in an up and outward motion. DO NO TWIST. This may cause a breakage of contaminated body fluid and don’t forget to disinfect the utensils. Place the tick in a sealed jar (I don’t recommend a zip-lock bag, one got out on me) and take it to the health department. They track the species that are invading our area.



Extra precaution

When gutting a deer, ALWAYS use rubber gloves. If the deer has LD and you have any small flesh wound, the contaminated blood can get into your blood.



Education is the key

Janine is passionate about educating people on the risks, prevention and diagnosis of Lyme disease. Within her personal circle of friends, she knows 18 people with LD. One day, the Lord laid it on her heart to start a support group for those who struggle with living with LD. L Bites was born to give encouragement, share knowledge about treatments and lend support to those ailing from the disease.

Their next meeting will be Saturday, Dec. 8 from 11-12 at 222 East Beach St., Jefferson in the Jefferson Health Care (Jefferson Geriatric) Conference Room. Guest speaker, Dr. J. Joseph will be there giving educational facts about the disease followed by a question and answer session. The medical community is encouraged to attend.

All of their meetings are open to the public and there is no charge. Reservations are not required but appreciated. Donations are accepted to cover the costs of guest speakers. You are asked to park in the back parking lot and enter through the dialysis doors.

For more information, you can contact Janine Kirby at 858-2614.



Ticks prevalent

Hunters and outdoors enthusiasts should be aware of a relatively new tick in Ohio, the blacklegged “deer” tick, according to the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) in conjunction with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ (ODNR) Division of Wildlife.

Blacklegged ticks were once considered rare in Ohio, but the state now has likely established populations in 26 counties, most east of Interstate 71 where deciduous forests are present. These small, dark ticks are known transmitters of Lyme disease and remain active throughout the year, including the fall and winter when temperatures are above freezing. Learn more about identifying these pests at www.bit.ly/OHticks.

ODH’s website has information and images about tick identification and tick-borne diseases. Visit odh.ohio.gov to learn more. The Center for Disease Control website has further details on Lyme disease nationally at www.cdc.gov/Lyme.

Unlike pets and humans, wild animals such as deer are not affected by the blacklegged tick and suffer no ill effects from Lyme disease. Additionally, Lyme disease cannot be transmitted by the consumption of venison. Hunters should remember that hunting and dressing deer may bring them into close contact with infected ticks. Be aware that composting deer hides may introduce these unwanted ticks in new areas.

Everyone, especially hunters, should be aware of this new threat and take precautions to prevent tick attachment. Outer clothing should be sprayed with a permethrin-based repellent according to label directions before hunting and allowed to thoroughly air dry.

Once dry, the clothing produces no odor. Pants should be tucked into socks or boots and shirts into pants to keep ticks on the outside of clothing. These ticks are difficult to spot on camouflage clothing. All clothing should be carefully inspected for small, dark crawling ticks before entering vehicles and going indoors. Once indoors, thoroughly check for small, attached ticks.



More removal hints

Remove attached ticks as soon as they are discovered to reduce the risk of contracting tick-borne diseases. For individuals to safely remove ticks from themselves, hunting dogs, or deer, people should use tweezers or their fingers protected by rubber gloves. Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull straight out with steady, even pressure. Do not use petroleum jelly, fingernail polish, alcohol, cigarettes, matches, or other similar methods to try to kill or stimulate the tick to back out. These methods do not work, delay proper removal and may be dangerous.

People should familiarize themselves with the symptoms for Lyme disease by going to www.cdc.gov/Lyme. Save the tick in a baggie and note the day of removal on a calendar. If an individual seeks medical attention, bring the tick and mention the known presence of Lyme disease infected ticks in Ohio. To learn more visit http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/Default.aspx?tabid=23053.



Deer facts

With deer hunting seasons open across Ohio, how about we take a fact-seeking look at what everyone is hunting for?

Fact — The world-record white-tailed deer, according to the Boone and Crockett Club, measures 213 5/8 inches and was killed near Biggar, Saskatchewan in 1993. That deer has 14 points. The recognized world-record non-typical white-tailed deer scores 333 7/8 inches and was picked up in Missouri in 1981. That deer has antlers with 44 points.

Fact — According to Whitetails Unlimited, North America’s smallest deer is the Florida key deer. In this species, mature does weigh 45 to 65 pounds, and full-grown bucks range from 55 to 75 pounds. The shoulder height is 24 to 30 inches. At birth, fawns weigh about 2 to 4 pounds and are approximately half the size of a “standard” whitetail.

Fact — According to Field and Stream magazine, deer outnumber deer hunters in several states. The publication’s charts report that for every hunter out in the fields and forests of Alabama pursuing deer, there are 2.05 deer ahead of them. Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina and Virginia round out the Top-Five states with bountiful deer populations that outnumber the hunters who pursue them.

Fact — Deer and Deer Hunting magazine reports that the 2000 white-tailed deer hunting season kill in Wisconsin was 618,274 beasts. By 2010 that number had dropped to 336,871 deer killed by hunters during that hunting season. Part of the reduction was blamed on Chronic Wasting Disease entering the state’s deer herds. Wolves probably also played a part in the herd reduction.



A nutty survey

The 2012 acorn mast survey conducted at 38 Ohio wildlife areas showed an increase in production from the previous year, according to the ODNR Division of Wildlife. The acorn mast nearly matched the banner year of 2010. The overall number white oak trees producing acorns increased 36 percent from 2011, and the number of red oak trees producing acorns increased by 9 percent

ODNR Division of Wildlife employees scanned the canopies of selected oak trees on 38 state wildlife areas to determine the percentage of trees that produced acorns and the relative size of the acorn crop. Thirty-two wildlife areas reported an increase in white oak acorn production, and 27 wildlife areas showed an increase in red oak acorn production.

An average of 52 percent of white oak trees and 67 percent of red oak trees bore fruit in 2012. In 2011, 16 percent of white oak trees and 58 percent of red oak trees bore fruit. “The fall of 2010 represented the highest percentage of fruit-bearing white and red oaks recorded over the past eight years,” said Suzie Prange, forest wildlife biologist with ODNR’s Division of Wildlife. “During the fall of 2012, a rebound occurred with the percentage of oaks producing fruit almost equaling the bumper crop of 2010.”

Ohio’s fall crop of acorns is an important food source for more than 90 forest wildlife species, and mast crop abundance can affect hunting plans. Hunters can expect to find deer, wild turkeys and squirrels concentrated near areas with heavy crops of white and chestnut oak acorns this fall. In areas with poor acorn production, these animals are more likely to feed near agricultural areas and forest edges. Acorn production is cyclical, with some trees producing acorns nearly every year, while others rarely produce. Wildlife prefer white oak acorns since red oak acorns contain a high amount of tannin and taste bitter.

ODNR’s Division of Wildlife is currently participating in a multi-state research project to estimate regional acorn production throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. Wildlife biologists hope to use the acorn production information gathered in the study to forecast wildlife harvest and reproductive success rates on a local and regional basis.



Oh, deer!

As of Oct. 30, 2012 the deer harvest stats for Ashtabula County and some surrounding counties are as follows:

Ashtabula — Bucks taken 220, does taken 524, button bucks 107, 2012, total 851.

Geauga — Bucks taken 103, does taken 315, button bucks taken 64, total, 482.

Lake — Bucks taken 65, does taken 161, button bucks taken 29, total 255.

Trumbull — Bucks taken 228, does taken 403, button bucks taken 122, total 753.

Sunderlin is a freelance writer from Geneva. Reach him at djss@roadrunner.com.

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