Doxycycline . . . don't leave home without it.
Early last month, day after day, I felled beetle-infested pine trees, removing limbs, cutting the trunks to manageable length, then carting and dragging all of it down to the burn pile on the meadow. I was constantly knee deep in habitat for one of our most active local families, the Amblyomma clan.
Around our rustic acres, these Amblyommas often mix with the Rhipicephalus crowd. It is a down-home bloodletting when the Dermacentor bunch arrives. They love to attack us, and they will jump at the first opportunity.
We don't call them by their names. We just call them ticks.
The moist early months of 2007 produced a bonanza of these tenacious arachnids around our neighborhood. Despite my semi-religious daily application of DEET-laced repellent, I was fair game for these eight-legged animals. I was bitten (on the ankles and around the waist) eight times in a one-week period. Most of the perpetrators were Amblyomma (Lone Star ticks). I would find these little passengers as I showered after work. By that time, they had done their job, and the itching began within 24 hours.
I began to feel the effects within a few days: I had tick fever. The symptoms were painful joints, weak and aching muscles, fatigue, a periodic fever of 1-2 degrees, frequent shortness of breath and a reddening and slight swelling of my lower legs. None of this was a surprise, as this was my third experience with tick fever (ehrlichosis).
This time, I didn't visit my doctor right away. We were leaving immediately on a long vacation, and I intended to catch up with a doctor friend in Detroit to get the standard treatment of doxycycline antibiotic. But I missed connections with him there, traveled to Canada and suffered with the symptoms for almost a month before I got home to my own doctor.
I finished the two-week course of doxycycline, but the episode has left me physically weakened. I have missed my regular workouts at the gym, and I expect the climb back to 100 percent health to be long.
It was a foolish procrastination — how foolish I didn't know until just this morning when I read on a state health department Web site: “If not treated early, Ehrlichiosis is potentially fatal, especially in the elderly, those with compromised immune systems, people with diabetes, and those with collagen vascular disease.”