Tar Heel woman has bout with tiny tick

By: By Erin Smith - erinsmith@civitasmedia.com

TAR HEEL — “It’s just amazing to me that something that small can cause so much disturbance (in your body).”

Those are the words Ann Elks used recently to describe her experience with a tick that carried Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. She said on Monday that, at first, doctors believed she had Lyme Disease and began to treat her for that when her lab results came back stating instead that it was Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

“The treatment is almost the same,” said Elks of her experience.

She said that she will undergo another set of laboratory tests in about two weeks.

Elks said her encounter with the tick-borne illness began about four weeks ago and was one that started out like any other day. Elks said she and her husband Bill had been working in the yard and flowerbeds and she set for awhile in a wooden swing in the yard. Elks said that evening when she took her shower, she felt something “tickling” behind her knee cap and spotted a small tick that was just barely visible.

Elks said she called her husband and he promptly took tweezers and removed the tick, which Elks described as “not as big as an ant.”

“I didn’t think the tick had had enough time to really dig in,” said Elks.

She said the tick left a small, barely noticeable bump where he had bitten and Elks said the bite didn’t initially look suspicious. Elks said the location of the tick bite felt “a little itchy” but other than that, she did not notice a red circle around the bite nor a rash. She also pointed out that the location of the tick bite was hard to see.

Elks said she knew something was wrong when she began to develop headaches and feeling tired and fatigued. Elks also said she felt at times like she was going to faint. Elks said sometimes she would have to stop what she was doing and wait for the feeling to pass. She also noted she had flu-like symptoms.

Finally, Elks said she felt so sick she sought the help of a doctor. Elks was admitted first to Cape Fear Valley-Bladen County Hospital and then transferred to Cape Fear Valley Medical Center in Fayetteville as doctors attempted to figure out what was causing her symptoms. She spent nine days in the hospital undergoing a series of tests including an EKG, an EEG, and a CAT scan.

Elks said her heart rate had dropped and her bloodpressure was really low.

She said at first she didn’t think connect the tick bite to her symptoms as it had been a few weeks since she was bitten. She said that in a conversation with one of her treating physicians she remembered the tick bite and mentioned it to him.

“I told the doctor I didn’t believe I had the circle. The doctor said that you didn’t always notice it or have the circle,” said Elks once she was diagnosed.

She said that once she recalled the tick bite, the doctor ordered a new set of lab tests and changed her medication and she began to improve. Elks said the doctors initially thought she might have contracted Lyme Disease.

“Since I’ve been on the medicine (for Lyme Disease), my symptoms have cleared up,” said Elks.

Elks said once the lab tests came back, they were negative for Lyme Disease but positive for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. She will have to undergo another set of lab tests in the about two weeks.

According to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Ga., some symptoms of RMSF include fever, a rash that ocurrs within 2 to 5 days but it may also be absent, headache, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, muscle pain, lack of appetite and red eyes. According to the CDC, about 10 percent of patients diagnosed with RMSF do not ever develop a rash.

Erin Smith can be reached at 910-862-4163.

By Erin Smith