Tick season in full swing

TEXARKANA, Texas - Rainy weather and warmer temperatures are creating favorable conditions for ticks to not only survive, but thrive.

There's an array of tick species in the Ark-La-Tex, and they carry a variety of diseases.

Christy Hibbs has spent most of her life active in swimming competitions and triathlons, but a diagnosis of Lyme Disease from a tick bite halted everything.

"It really has been awful, everything I once knew of myself is completely gone. It's completely changed me," said Hibbs.

She doesn't remember getting a tick bite, but the tick-borne illness has caused serious health issues.

"I can barely run a few miles now without my body just hurting, my muscles hurting, my bones throbbing for a couple of days after I over-exert myself," explained Hibbs.

Arkansas researchers launched a study last year to determine what types of tick species are in the state, and more importantly, what kind of diseases they carry.

Miller County Extension Agent Jennifer Caraway says they found that the Lone Star Tick, the American Dog Tick, the Black-Legged Tick and the Gulf Coast Tick are the most common in southwest Arkansas.

"You definitely want to be on the look out for those types of things and the symptoms associated with those particular ticks if you've been bitten," said Caraway.

Some diseases ticks carry include: Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Fever, Ehrlichiosis and the Alpha-gal allergy, which causes an allergic reaction to red meat.

"People are a lot more aware of their surroundings, and what is possible to happen to them from a tick bite, which is good, so we can catch it on the front end and not let it go too long," said Caraway.

Doctor Matt Young with Texarkana Emergency Center says any tick found on the body should be promptly removed by using tweezers, pulling upward with steady pressure - to assure the head is completely removed from the skin.

"We've already diagnosed several tick borne illnesses this Spring, from April to November is when we start seeing them," said Dr. Young.

Potential symptoms of tick-borne illnesses include: A red spot or rash near the bite site, a fever, muscle or joint pain, nausea, and fatigue.

"Most of these illnesses usually take a tick to be on you for roughly 24 hours, maybe a little less, maybe a little more, but right around 24 hours," said Dr. Young.

If untreated, health officials say you could experience chronic symptoms such as, joint pain, severe headaches, numbness, heart palpitations, or even in some cases death.

Doctor Young says Lyme Disease is the most common tick-borne illness in the Texarkana area.

He says only about 50 percent of people diagnosed with the illness, remember getting a tick bite.

It's been three years since Hibbs was first diagnosed with Lyme Disease.

"I've been fighting for my life ever since then," said Hibbs.

While she still experiences the prolonged complications, she continues to be resilient and hopeful with each new day.

"I am happy to say I've put it in remission. As a couple of weeks ago, I was told the news. I'm very excited," explained Hibbs.

If you're going to be in wooded or grassy areas, health officials recommend spraying your clothes with DEET containing insecticide, wear long sleeves and pants, and be sure to check for bites after any outdoor activities.

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