Isham Announces Tick Alert in Warning Against Lyme Disease

Students, glancing over an email alert about ticks sent by Dr. Richard Keller, School Physician, may not have realized the biting reality behind his warning. Isham has reported multiple cases of tick bites this year already, a rare occurrence this early in the season, according to Keller. Keller said that Isham is particularly concerned with an illness known as Lyme disease, which can be caused by tick bites. Isham has seen case of Lyme disease in Andover students in past years. Jing Qu ’13 discovered a tick on her ear this past weekend. “It was completely out of the blue that there was a tick on me, but now that I’ve been through that experience I see that it could happen to anyone,” said Qu. “Every year we see a handful of cases of Lyme disease. Usually it’s a little later in the season when ticks begin to make their presence on campus,” said Keller. Keller attributed the increase in tick-related cases to a greater prevalence of ticks, the result of a growing deer population. Because deer carry the ticks, an increase in the deer population offers more hosts for the ticks and as a result increased potential for Lyme disease. Keller said if the tick stays on a human for more than 24 hours, they are at risk for Lyme disease. “Although [Lyme disease] is treatable, it is also an avoidable disease to get,” said Keller. “I have seen deer on grass before so be mindful even on grass about ticks. For example, if you are spending the day on the lawn, sunbathing as the weather gets better, check yourself for ticks,” continued Keller. Keller advised students to visit Isham for a check-up after receiving a tick bite to help avoid Lyme disease. “The earlier diagnosis the better the treatment outcome,” said Keller. “You don’t want to miss Lyme disease. There is some evidence that if you get some medicine right at the time of the tick bite, you can prevent Lyme disease altogether.” Although individuals may technically be able to see ticks with their naked eye, Keller said some are tougher to spot so students should check themselves more carefully. According to Keller, ticks’ sizes vary depending on their stage of growth. Immature forms, tick eggs, are around one or two millimeters. Grown ticks are much larger, at several millimeters. “There is a special way to remove a tick. It would probably be best off to have medical people remove them,” said Keller. Keller explained, “You have to grab [the tick] with forceps, and if you pull too hard you will rip the body in half and increase the chance of infection.” Students are at a greater risk of contracting Lyme disease if the tick has been attached to their body longer. Keller said that Isham maintains a record to determine the period of time a tick has been entrenched in the body. “Usually people can time how long the tick has been imbedded in the body based on how long it has been since they had been outdoors. So if you were outdoors all Saturday and find a tick on yourself on Sunday, then you can assume you received the tick while outside on Saturday. If the tick is engorged than it has been there for a long time,” said Keller. Keller said that Isham also administers antibiotics to tick-bitten students after removing any ticks. Keller said that he has never seen anyone at Andover show symptoms of Lyme disease after taking the antibiotics. To prevent tick bites, students should use repellants and avoid thick vegetation. “If you are in the woods, stay on trails and paths, try to avoid going off the trail into the rough terrain. Also use DEET, it’s the only thing that repels ticks affectively. The permethrin on your clothes can be helpful as well,” said Keller.