WARNINGS are coming in thick and fast about the start of tick season.
However, while most are in relation to the potential deadly effects of paralysis ticks on dogs and other pets, one Murrah woman is also highlighting the dangers posed to humans.
Jacqui van Teulingen of Murrah has Lyme disease, as does her three-year-old daughter Sophie and quite possibly her husband and two other children.
Lyme disease is an infection caused by bacteria passed to humans from tick bites.
However, the presence in Australia of locally acquired Lyme disease is not acknowledged by health authorities.
On its website, NSW Health states “there is little evidence that Lyme disease is caused by Australian ticks”; and “it has been reported from every continent, though there is no conclusive evidence that it is found in Australia”.
Ms van Teulingen, among many other sufferers Australia-wide, begs to differ.
Her daughter Sophie has never left Australia, but has been to hospital 16 times in her three short years, suffering from the many and varied effects of Lyme disease.
Sophie’s diagnosis of Lyme disease was confirmed by IGeneX, a specialist laboratory in the US.
Ms van Teulingen said typical early effects of Lyme disease include flu-like symptoms such as a persistent headache and blocked sinuses.
She said a red rash is also fairly indicative of Lyme, but not everyone with the infection will get the rash.
The trouble is, she said, symptoms can appear up to a month after a bite from an infected tick and by then, symptoms are not necessarily associated with the bite.
“In my opinion children are most at risk,” Ms van Teulingen said.
“They don’t always feel the bite at the time and it could already have been on you for 12 hours by the time it feels itchy.
“If there’s no instant reaction like anaphylaxis, parents tend to leave it alone and the symptoms aren’t tied to a tick bite,” she said.
Ms van Teulingen – backed up by information available on the NSW Health website – said Lyme disease can be treated by a course of antibiotics.
“The sooner they start antibiotics the better though, because if it’s not treated within two weeks it can become a chronic condition,” she said.
Chronic Lyme disease is what Ms van Teulingen said she has.
Her diagnosis and resulting effects make for troubling reading.
“I have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and I get a lot of dizziness,” Ms van Teulingen said.
“I also have some spasticity in my right arm where I lose control of it sometimes.
“I have chronic fatigue and major ‘brain fog’ – a permanent headache.
“I’ve developed a heart murmur – brachycardia – and have early signs of interstitial lung disease.
“I’m often breathless and get dizzy after climbing stairs. I’m only converting oxygen at 70 per cent of normal and I go blue often – blue hands and lips.”
Ms van Teulingen said she believed she has had Lyme disease for around 14 years and perhaps passed it to Sophie and her other children in utero, but that it took a more recent tick bite to send the disease “haywire”.
A bite in October of last year resulted in extensive hospital stays for Ms van Teulingen.
“The tick was in for five days before I even knew it was a tick,” she said.
“I spent most of February in hospital and underwent several heart operations.
“I didn’t know a tick could nearly kill me.”
It has also nearly killed Sophie.
* Ms van Teulingen shared Sophie’s distressing story with Lyme disease support group website sunshinecoastlymedisease.weebly.com
* A wealth of tick and Lyme disease-related information is available at charity-funded research organisation the Karl McManus Foundation www.karlmcmanusfoundation.org.au, and the Lyme Disease Association of Australia website lymedisease.org.au.