Spring has sprung, baseball season’s first pitch has been thrown, April’s rains have been falling, and the ticks are back. Even if you can’t see them. Just ask Michael Noonan of Florence.
On a Thursday, a couple of weeks ago, Noonan, 62, noticed a red spot the size of a half dollar on the inside of his elbow, with a small dot in the center. The dot was a deer tick. His wife removed it with a pair of tweezers.
“It looked like a little piece of wood,” Noonan said, “except it was moving.”
His arm had been hurting all week — since cleaning up leaves in his driveway on Sunday — but Noonan figured he had a spider bite and didn’t think much of it until his wife did some online research.
After a trip to the OnCall Urgent Care Center in Northampton, he was told he would be treated for Lyme disease. Noonan was put on the antibiotic doxycycline for 11 days. Later, when he told the OnCall staff that he had probably been bitten while out raking five days before finding the tick, they upped his prescription to 24 days.
Just a few minutes in the yard these spring days is all it takes to attract a deer tick which can carry pathogens that cause Lyme or other diseases. While antibiotics cure some who contract Lyme, others suffer from chronic illness for years. Their symptoms can include headaches, heightened allergies, nausea, night sweats, joint pain, distractability and more.
These disease-carrying critters have been on the rise in the Northeast for the past decade.
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, confirmed cases of Lyme disease in the United States have risen by over 10,000 in the past 12 years, from 17,029 to 27,203. The majority of these cases were reported in the Northeast and the Great Lakes regions of the country.
The latest CDC figures indicate that more than 300,000 people were infected with Lyme disease in 2014 alone, said Maria Malaguti, founder and executive director of the Northampton-based Lyme Disease Resource Center. “That figure is 10 times more than previously reported in 2013,” she said.