LEBANON JUNCTION, Kentucky (WLKY) — In Kacy Tongate’s hometown of Lebanon Junction, ticks are expected but he says this year it’s worse than usual.
“We can walk to the mailbox down the gravel driveway and come back with ticks on us,” said Tongate. “They fall out of the trees, they’re in the grass, they just keep getting worse every year it seems.”
A month ago, he was infected with rocky mountain spotted fever — a potentially deadly disease transmitted by a tick bite.
“It could lead to death, that’s what scares me,” he said. “The weight loss is really concerning too. Two months ago, I was 214 pounds, now I’m 167. Also, the tiredness, weakness, shakiness, my brain’s foggy and my speech has been slurred.”
In addition to these effects, certain tick bites can leave visible scars. Tongate has a rash on his upper chest, several marks along his legs, and a tick still in his thigh after a recent bite.
“These are so small you can barely see them, and they were already embedded in my skin, so it just looks like a mole kind of,” he said. “I don’t like it on my skin and these things don’t ever go away.”
Experts say though common in warmer seasons like fall, spring and summer, ticks are year-round threats. In Kentucky, familiar species are deer ticks, wood ticks and dog ticks. Doctors say if you’re bit, the recommended method of removing them from your skin is with tweezers.
“Find something where you can get really close to the skin and grab the tick and gently put traction on it to pull it out completely,” said Dr. Ken Marshall, a family physician at Norton Healthcare.
Tongate’s disease was diagnosed early, but Dr. Marshall says that isn’t the case for everyone. Symptoms can show up nearly 30 days after the initial bite.
“It’s a pretty wide window of time between the bite and when things can actually get started,” he said.
Tick bites cannot be entirely prevented, but Tongate has this advice if a tick lands on you.
“Basically get them ticks off you, as quick as you can,” he said.
Doctors prescribed Tongate antibiotics, which is used to treat most tick-borne illnesses. The large population of ticks in rural Kentucky has prompted Tongate and his wife to sell their home and move.
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