Identify Lyme Disease and Find Resources

Reader Contribution by Bruce Mcelmurray

We have been clearing and hauling brush to our community burn site as a result of the brutally hard winter we had earlier this year. Hurricane-strength wind gusts and very heavy snow broke or blew over about 100 trees on our land, so we wanted to get the debris hauled to the burn site to be disposed of. We mulched about 5-7 cubic yards of mulch, and hauled off four utility trailers full of branches so far. We have another two loads to remove. We live at 9,800 feet of elevation in our small cabin with our four German shepherd dogs. Life at this elevation can be pretty rough sometimes.

Bull’s Eye Bite Mark. We started clearing brush in mid June and have been clearing branches off and on since then. These debris piles harbor various insects and even though I wear long sleeve shirts and gloves I still get bitten. About a week ago I noticed a strange bite on my arm that I thought I should recognize but I was unable to remember why that particular bite was so important. (see photo). Then a couple days ago I had one of those ‘light bulb’ moments that told me it was a tick bite with a distinctive bull’s eye appearance.

Not All Web Sites are Accurate. I did an online search to see if we had Lyme disease in Colorado. When we lived in Pennsylvania, it was more prevalent. Often in my case, it is knowing the proper words to put into my search engine, and “do we have lyme disease in Colorado” is probably not the best question. The answer was “there is no lyme disease in Colorado”. Still, that strange bite mark had me concerned. I went to Google images and entered ‘Lyme tick bite’ and up came endless photos of bites identical to the one I had.

Head in the Sand Approach. Why would any web site say we didn’t have Lyme disease in Colorado when it appeared we did have same — or was I just a random victim to a nasty rogue tick? Then I remembered when we first moved here and we looked out the back storm door and right there within a couple feet was a grey wolf. Yellow eyes, long legs, huge feet and every bit as big as any wolf I had seen before. It seemed curious as to who we were and in the blink of an eye it disappeared. I thought I should call local animal authorities to see if they could confirm the species. I was told no, Colorado did not have any wolves. But wait, I had just seen one clearly!

Early Treatment for Lyme Disease. I thought that was a strange response but I let it pass. Later, I found out if it was admitted we had any wolves the Department of Wildlife would have to develop programs for their protection and accounting which they have now subsequently done. Maybe it is the same tactic with Lyme disease. When I went to the clinic to have that bite checked, I was told they had two cases last year and my bite had all the earmarks of a Lyme disease tick bite but fortunately I had come in early and with appropriate treatment 80% of those bitten make full recovery with little or no effects from the disease.

Lyme Disease is Serious. I ask myself why would a web site deny the existence of a disease that is easily discernable especially if treated early where recovery is exceptionally successful. I am on a prescribed antibiotic and hope I’m in the 80% recovery group as Lyme disease can be a very serious disease. I can’t even remember when I was prescribed antibiotics for anything, so I doubt I have any built up immunity to them. Having conflict between web pages on Lyme disease only serves to confuse readers and could hurt individuals by thinking there is no risk when in fact there is a risk.

Government Sites are More Accurate. Those who spend time outside should check themselves after being outdoors plus wear anti-insect spray to keep the little blood suckers at bay. I checked numerous sites and the only one that appeared specifically factual was the Center of Disease Control site. It appears that our government agencies go to great lengths to publish informed and factual information.

I realized that the reason I did not see a tick attached was because it probably was pulled loose under the sleeve of my shirt when I likely scratched the area. As I searched the various web sites for Lyme disease I discovered all 50 states have had reports of this disease. To qualify as a statistic the lesion (bull’s eye) must be 5 cm in size or confirmed with laboratory testing. My case would be a suspected Lyme disease bite because the size is smaller than required and it doesn’t show up in the bloodstream until four weeks. I’m glad I went in early and didn’t have a recordable statistic and I’m doubly glad I did further research and didn’t rely on that first site.

Blood-Sucking Parasites. The more I read about the symptoms it helped me realize that they are all serious and potentially debilitating and nothing to shrug off or delay getting on antibiotics for. The bull’s eye bite that the photo shows on my arm is pretty characteristic and if you see a similar bite. I would urge the person bitten to get to a doctor soon so treatment can be initiated. From here on, we will be paying much closer attention to insect bites and use preventative methods to hopefully avoid them.

 I’m full of questions as I write this, but foremost is why do I seem to always find out these hazardous situations after the fact?

Bruce McElummary lives remotely with his wife, Carol, in an 880-square-foot cabin along with their three dogs. They implemented many of the things they learned from MOTHER since its inception as a magazine. For more on Bruce and Carol McElmurray and their lifestyle go to Read all of Bruce’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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