I remember reading about how the head of Duke University’s Medical School died of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever because a tick bit him and he didn’t realize it.
The fever and vomiting begin early. It is not until it has nearly killed you that the infamous spots appear. That is the start of the death knell.
So nothing creeps me out quite like finding a tick on my person. Or the dog. Or you.
Sign, Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary, Modjeska Canyon, California.
Summer offers mercies to the chaparral hiker. One of these is the change of the colors of poison oak from a glossy green to an autumnal red. Poison oak cannot be called an herb or a shrub or a vine or a tree: it can be any of these. I know of patches where it sprouts as a bush and other places where it throttles a tree. There is a spot in O’Neill Regional Park where it stretches to the forest canopy as a large sapling. If there is shade, there is probably poison oak mixed in the ground cover. And if there is sun, it may well be there, too. The pretty leaves tricked one hiker I know to use them as a wipe. How could anything so beautiful cause suffering? was the reasoning that passed through her head. Toxicodendron diversilobum is a most devious plant, the closest thing I can think of as an argument for intelligent design if not by a benevolent creator, then by a demon.
A followup to my post about spirochetes and ticks:
We think of Lyme Disease as a particularly human affliction. Nonetheless, it was only identified 40 years ago. Studies of ticks preserved in amber revealed that the spirochete predated humans by 15 million years! Science Daily reported:
“Ticks and the bacteria they carry are very opportunistic,” said George Poinar, Jr., a professor emeritus in the Department of Integrative Biology of the OSU College of Science, and one of the world’s leading experts on plant and animal life forms found preserved in amber. “They are very efficient at maintaining populations of microbes in their tissues, and can infect mammals, birds, reptiles and other animals.
“In the United States, Europe and Asia, ticks are a more important insect vector of disease than mosquitos,” Poinar said. “They can carry bacteria that cause a wide range of diseases, affect many different animal species, and often are not even understood or recognized by doctors.
“It’s likely that many ailments in human history for which doctors had no explanation have been caused by tick-borne disease.”
Dr. Poinar found evidence of spirochetes in tick specimens fossilized in Dominican amber. He also discovered evidence of Rickettsia bacteria — which are the cause of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. The discovery pushes our knowledge of such pathogens presence back from 5,300 years — the age of the Tyroleon Ice Man who was sick with Lyme Disease.
Ticks and their pathogens been waiting for us for a long time…. When they bite you, you are being bitten by History.
When I spent four years in North Carolina about 35 years ago, I hated going into the woods because doing so without a hat invited ticks to drop on my head. I remember one long post-hike affair when my girlfriend and I stripped ourselves naked and spent a distinctly unerotic hour searching for the vectors on our skin and in our various hairy bits. We broke up shortly afterwards, though not because of the ticks, I think. The plastic helmet that I started to wear to protect myself proved a more decisive factor — among many.
Ticks scare me. Just the thought of a creature burrowing its head into my body and sucking deeply from the nearest capillary gives me no happy thrill. I shivered when my dog’s veterinarian found one attached to his neck. It looked like a lump of grayish brown dog flesh to me. I backed off when he raised it to show to me. Good thing, I thought, that I didn’t let my Boston Terrier sleep with me. Who wanted to become a second course to a known carrier of Lyme Disease?