NEWS: An expert’s close encounter with an infected tick
Ed Breitschwerdt, D.V.M., is professor of medicine and infectious diseases in the College of Veterinary Medicine at N.C. State University and adjunct professor of medicine at Duke University Medical Center. He has long studied tick-borne diseases. Recently, however, he found an embedded tick on himself, and writes about the experience in the Raleigh News and Observer.
RALEIGH — I have studied tick-borne infectious agents for more than two decades – directing a vector-borne infectious disease diagnostic laboratory and a tick-borne disease research lab at N.C. State’s College of Veterinary Medicine since 1982 – and I am very familiar with the potential outcomes of tick-transmitted diseases, which can include rapid onset illnesses or death or induction of chronic and insidious symptoms.
Consequently, I do “tick checks” after outdoor activity on my farm, but I recently missed one.
When I discovered the tick, I followed recommendation I’ve given to hundreds of individuals in lectures on tick-borne pathogens. I placed the parasite in a vial of alcohol and wrote the date of its removal on the label. This is an important step, as there are at least four tick species that attach to animals and people in North Carolina, and each species can transmit different bacteria that collectively cause a spectrum of diseases. Knowing the species can help the physician or veterinarian understand which infectious agent has been transmitted.