Tick watch: Beware of the bugs when temps are warm

Black-legged ticks – deer ticks – that carry Lyme disease are out there and still active. Tick season remains in force in Merrimack, Bedford, Hollis and Brookline, along with most other Southern New Hampshire towns, which until this week, had experienced a temperate start to the winter.

Dr. Julia Greenspan is a Merrimack resident whose practice, Greenhouse Naturopathic Medicine, is located in Amherst. She notes that adult ticks take a final feeding at first frost, but temps above freezing can entice them out to feed on animals or humans.

Greenspan, whose book, “Rising Above Lyme,” is due for publication in the coming year, is nationally renowned for specializing in the treatment of Lyme disease. Television interviews, professional seminars and public forums document her expertise.

She most recently addressed more than 70 members of the Merrimack Valley Beekeepers Association at a club gathering in Hollis. The group is a high-risk population, for beehives oftentimes are located in brushy or wooded areas where ticks abound.

Greenspan said the general nature of some of the aches and pains associated with Lyme and the tendency for symptoms to go away and then resurge makes it easy to blame the flu or the common cold.

She praises a fascinating documentary, “Under Our Skin,” available online and from most libraries. It is an insight into the impact of Lyme on formerly healthy, active people.

“It’s important not to throw the tick away when there is a bite,” said Greenspan. “There is a lot of information in the bug itself and it can be sent to a lab to be tested.”

She said it is important to act fast. The source of Lyme disease and many other tick-borne infections is bacteria backwash regurgitated by the tick into the victim’s bloodstream as the insect sups.

She recommends the Massachusetts Tick Testing Laboratory’s “tick check” service, where 55 percent of ticks tested there are found to carry Lyme or other tick-borne disease. Tick check kits are ordered online (tickcheck.com) and a two-day turnaround helps Greenspan formulate an appropriate treatment plan without delay.

Greenspan said to consider Lyme when symptoms arise, whether or not a tick is found on the body. The bite may occur undetected in a skin fold, or on the scalp. Some people do not recall having any bite. It’s their symptoms that eventually force a doctor visit and a diagnosis.

“Timely treatment is important to avoid future suffering,” Greenspan said. “And it is important to remember there are other infections ticks carry that can be transmitted to humans.”

She urges a proactive approach to investigating any tick bite or any of the many symptoms – migrating joint pain, headache, floaters in the field of vision – that indicate a problem. She recommends routine annual testing for Lyme with a test called the “Western Blot.”

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Public Health Services statistics for 2015 documented 1,373 cases of Lyme. Greenspan contends many more go undiagnosed, or misdiagnosed.

“Please inquire with your medical professional about being tested for Babesia, Bartonella, Anaplasmosis, Ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever as well as Lyme,” she said.