Tele-Health, Test-a-Tick, Tell-a-Friend
Deborah Dormady Letham, PhD

Tele-Health, Test-a-Tick, Tell-a-Friend

COVID is taking over ERs, so what to do for an everyday ailment?

Here is one surprising way I was distracted from SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, a tick embedded itself into my foot. UGH! The potential for Lyme disease is a serious statistic that we cannot ignore in the Northeast. With the approaching warmer months, we are a tick hot spot. Lyme can become a debilitating disease when not caught early, but is very treatable when you know you have been exposed.

We are continuing to work as a life-sustaining company – while social distancing to prevent SARS-CoV-2 contaminations. I have enjoyed digging into science projects for testing medicines and materials. Busy, busy - but this itch on my foot was SO distracting – and unusual enough that I removed my hiking boot and sock. Then I saw the tick - smack dab in the middle of my foot! Ugh! I was not even in the woods, but later realized I had sat at the picnic table wearing my hiking boots recently. Luckily (or unluckily), I now have personal experience with ticks. I have had two bites in a year, both in mild winters, after no known bites in my 50 years... But I was certainly NOT going to run to the doctors this time – not with the heavy burden of patients with COVID-19 symptoms inundating the overworked healthcare workers and local hospitals. Tele-health medical care to the rescue.

We have access to online doctors and nurse phone calls, but I called my regular doctor’s office directly. The receptionist, understandably over-stretched, came right to the point: “What do you want me to do?” I calmed instantly down and put my problems into perspective compared to her triage situation. I asked for the one-time dose preventative doxycycline antibiotic (to be taken within 72 hours like I received for the last tick bite) to be phoned into the pharmacy: done. Tele-medicine may not work for everything, but for this “routine” issue, it worked amazingly well.

Tick-Tock the clock is ticking. It was valuable what I learned from last year’s tick bite to reduce my panic and take the right steps:

  • Get the tick out
  • Call the doctor
  • Schedule a tick test – now FREE to Pennsylvania residents at ORG (with a fee for non-residents)
  • Pay attention to my health
  • Tell a friend. Thanks to social media and all other forms of communication, last year I learned of this tick test thru my Facebook post. Then another friend who read my first blog about tick-testing sent in his tick and actually found out it was positive for the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria which causes Lyme disease and was grateful to get a jump-start to keep track of his health.

Start to finish, dealing with my “ordeal” was accomplished in only 45 minutes MAX. I mailed my tick to the lab and I got back to work – that peace of mind was priceless… These are not clinical human testing samples, but the results are still valuable to know. Two days later I received a text message from the lab stating my sample was processing and the next day that the tick result was done. My tick was negative for the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria that causes Lyme and negative for the Ehrlichia chaffeensis bacteria which causes human monocytic ehrlichiosis. The visual identification also stated that my tick was a Lone-Star tick, not fully engorged, therefore attached less than the typical time for bacterial transmission. Such good info – too good to NOT tell a friend.