The $3 Billion Tick Bite

If Ina Drew's tragic tick bite didn't catch your attention recently, perhaps the symptoms, and frequency, of lyme disease will.

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Deer ticks, and lyme disease for that matter, are no joke.  Just ask Ina Drew, the recently-resigned head of JP Morgan’s Chief Investment Office, whose long term illness following a bite from a deer tick in 2010 is now being blamed for the colossal oversight that cost investors nearly $3 billion.

Drew received her bite while gardening in her New Jersey backyard.  Deer ticks, the critters who transmit the disease to humans through their bites, are most populous on Long Island and the lower Hudson Valley region.  Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria transmitted through the bite, and ticks become infected when they feed on small animals that carry the disease.  
Since the disease first became reportable in 1986, over 95,000 cases have been recorded in New York State alone.
If Ina Drew’s recent headlines didn’t catch your attention, maybe the actual symptoms of lyme disease will.  The disease targets multiple body systems, including the nervous system, cardiovascular, skin and joints, which are among the most frequent.  Between 60 and 80 percent of lyme disease patients display a rash resembling a bull’s eye or solid round patch, reaching 2 inches in diameter around the bite mark
The early stages of lyme disease leave patients feeling fatigued, with headache, chills and fever, stiff neck, muscle and joint pain and swollen glands.  If you have these symptoms in conjunction with a bull’s eye rash, be sure to see a doctor.  If the disease is treated in the early stages, patients can expect a quicker recovery.  The reverse is also true; the longer one waits to be treated for symptoms of lyme disease, more serious symptoms can occur, including tingling and numbness in the arms and legs, facial paralysis, severe fatigue, and even more serious problems with the central nervous system.
The likelihood of contracting lyme disease increases if the tick remains attached for a long period of time after the bite occurs.   What’s a long period of time to have a tick sucking at your blood?  If you’re like me, the short answer is any amount of time.  But the important answer, the period of time it usually takes for the bacteria to be transmitted, is closer to 36 hours.  That means, even if you take a hike in the morning, and search for ticks in the late afternoon, you should still be in the clear.  But, you should err on the side of caution and always get a bite checked out by a doctor.
So, how can you be proactive about not contracting lyme disease in an area where infected deer ticks are prevalent, like Long Island?  
One of the easiest things to do is wear long sleeves and pants, which are tucked into your socks.  You won’t be the most fashion-forward nature-goer out there, but you will be among the safest in terms of blocking ticks from sinking their teeth in.  Repellents can be effective at keeping ticks at bay, but using them in large quantities can also pose serious health risks.  One of the most important things to do is to self-check EVERYWHERE after an outing in tall grass and the woods.  It’s not uncommon to find multiple ticks on one person after a few hours outside in tick infested areas.
There’s no reason deer ticks should take a bite out of your summer on Long Island.  Just be knowledgeable about dealing with them, and be on the lookout for early symptoms of lyme disease if you have been bitten.  
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