Getting It Right: Ticks

Not, not the comic book hero or the nervous twitch kind of tic – I’m talking about those gross, disgusting, horrendous little bugs that should be eradicated from this planet. The pictures of swollen ticks were just way too disturbing to post here, so I went with the 20th anniversary edition of the comic book. It is, in fact more attractive than a swollen tick. Google it if you don’t believe me.

What in the world could anyone get wrong about ticks? Why don’t you ask the producers of a TV show that will remain nameless that’s supposed to be set in The Hamptons in Long Island, New York and stars a handsome young man as a concierge doctor? The network it’s on is three letters and the initials of the show are R.P. Now, I know you’re wondering “Kat, what in the world were you doing watching a dumbed-down version of the medical drama House?” It wasn’t my fault. I saw the Saab convertible and I couldn’t move away.

There’s a spoiler here, so if you’re a fan of the show and you haven’t seen all the episodes, you probably don’t want to read this. Okay, so there’s this high school football player who is having dizzy spells and black-outs. They run a myriad of medical tests on him and can find nothing. At the end of the show, they discover a week earlier he’d fallen on the lawn and was down for a moment. The handsome doctor says “which side was down against the ground?” The kid points to his right ear. The doctor gets a pair of tweezers and pulls out a shiny black tick. WHAT?!?! No, I’m really not kidding.

First of all, the tick would have swollen up – filled itself up on the kid’s blood. It probably would have gotten stuck in his ear, causing him great pain. (Normally ticks feed on the blood and when they’re full, they drop off of their host.) A normal tick would have looked like a spit-out piece of chewed gum. A deer tick would have looked like a blood blister. Yick. Secondly – are you telling me that a house in The Hamptons doesn’t treat their immaculate lawn with insecticide? Just bogus.

Lyme disease, which is spread by “deer” ticks (also known as the blacklegged tick), has reached nearly epidemic levels in the USA. They claim you will see a bulls eye around the bite, but that’s not always the case. Lyme disease is very difficult to diagnose in some cases especially because the blood tests can yield false results. It’s an ugly infection, normally cured with tetracycline, doxycycline, or amoxycillin. And yes, those are the medications that will keep you out of the sun, and odds are you got Lyme disease during the summer.

How do I know so much about this? I had Lyme disease three years in a row when I lived on the Chesapeake Bay. It wasn’t fun. Trust me.

Lyme disease isn’t the only affliction caused by ticks. There are a bunch of other diseases they carry, and also can be difficult to detect. By the way, not all areas of the USA and Canada are prone to Lyme disease. That’s why I live here in Eastern Washington State. It’s a dry, hot climate – high desert – and we ain’t got no Lyme disease here – yet. Oh no, I just foiled your plans to use Lyme disease to slowly and painfully kill off a beautiful yet reclusive author living in the mountain wilderness in WA State? Well, no worries, there are a few authentic ways you can still do that.

Christmas Trees. Yes, believe it or not, Christmas trees are imported all over the United States (even the forested ones!) from states like Colorado, which do have ticks carrying not only Lyme disease, but also Colorado Tick Fever, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and a few others. (Ehrlichiosis is another ugly disease carried by ticks in certain areas.) A couple of years ago there was a story in the news about a coastal Alaskan town getting infested with tree frogs because of a shipment of Christmas trees from the continental U.S. which contained a ton of those hibernating frogs.

Transplants. Ah, the nice family from another state with a bunch of dogs and cats – loaded with ticks and fleas. Welcome to our state…NOT!

Migrating Birds. Yes, birds will host ticks. So will bunnies, deer, and pretty much any other animal with warm blood. Gross!

Ticks only have one known natural “enemy” –  Guinea hens. No, I’m not kidding. Weird, huh?

There is a ton of information online about ticks and Lyme disease. If you’re going to write about them, make sure you do your research and get it right. After all, getting it wrong can be a royal pain.

Ref: – CDC Website; Colorado State Site

Author: K.S. Brooks

K.S. Brooks is an award-winning novelist, photographer, and photo-journalist, author of over 30 titles, and executive director and administrator of Indies Unlimited. Brooks is currently a photo-journalist and chief copy editor for two NE Washington newspapers.  She teaches self-publishing and writing topics for the Community Colleges of Spokane, and served on the Indie Author Day advisory board. For more about K.S. Brooks, visit her website and her Amazon author page.

24 thoughts on “Getting It Right: Ticks”

  1. Great article, Kat. Loved the last sentence tie-in. As a former virologist (an advanced specialization in microbiology – for those who might not know) I can tell you that you’re dead on. In fact … the other show you mentioned with the Brit playing an american doctor pulled the same kind of stunt. I was a bit disappointed. And in support of your statements…you’re absolutely right about the false positives and negatives from the lyme titers. It takes time for your body to produce the antibodies against it … and since the test is what is known as an ELISA … it looks for those antibodies. Until you produce them…the ain’t there, as they say in the vernacular.

    So for all you sun worsipers and nautralists out there…be careful. As Kat said…lyme disease ain’t no fun…I’ve had it myself twice.

  2. Hey Kat,
    Yes, RP can be a goofy/inane show at times – and I’m an avid watcher.
    If I might get all Hitchcockian (which sounds far more like a dirty word than it is), you could refer to the tick in this case as the MacGuffin. In the end, the tick didn’t matter IF you found the show entertaining. I try and keep this in mind when I’m writing as well. Can I take a detour from reality for a minute, or cheat on a detail, or bluff my way through? Sure, if it works. If it works.
    … I’m not saying it did in this case, mind you. I had my feet up and my wife and I were too busy MST3King it, so we had fun just the same.

    1. You know, if I didn’t know as much as I do about ticks – which I wish I didn’t – it wouldn’t have mattered at all. But I do, so it did. He certainly is nice to look at, though, as is his Saab convertible. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  3. You are dead right, Kat, and I disagree with Ken, there is bound to be someone who knows about what ever it is that you are writing about and so we, as writers, owe it to our readers (or viewers) to do the research and get it right!

    Nice post, Kat; yucky but nice, if you know what I mean.

  4. Thanks, Kat! Mice also carry ticks, ick. So l’il me who thinks she’s safe by staying off the lawn and out of the woods can pick up a tick in my living room.

  5. Living on a farm, ticks are a part of life. Last year was so bad we had to check the dogs every time they came in. I had a “tick jar” where I placed all the plucked ticks (you microwave them for 45 seconds to kill them) and my jar was 1/4 full by the end of the “season.” After every human outing into tall grass or forest, mandatory tick checks are carried out. If a tick is found, removed, and area cleaned, I’ve found that for up to two weeks, the site is itchy.

    Keeping lawns around the house short will help. Chickens and guineas are good help too.

    Great article!

    1. When I lived in Maryland by the Chesapeake Bay, it got to the point where I stopped going outside. I just couldn’t deal with it. Thanks for your comment, Kathy, and I hope you stay healthy! 🙂

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