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Mooshi-Mooshi, Lord of Ticks


I went to the University of Rhode Island’s Tick Awareness Event on Saturday. My friend the nurse dragged me along. She was like, “it’ll be fun.” And…it was. There were doctors and microscopes and a picnic and giant inflatable ticks and everything.

Seriously, peeps…Lyme disease scares me juiceless. I’m out in the woods all the time, and we’ve got hella Lyme around here. It’s not the big dog ticks you have to watch out for, either — it’s the little teeny bastards. The deer ticks. Usually in the nymph stage, when they’re the size of the period at the end of this sentence.

You might notice the tick. Eighty percent chance you won’t. You might get the tell-tale bullseye rash. Seventy percent chance you won’t. You might test positive, but the tests are very unreliable. My doctor gives me a fight every year when I ask for one. He thinks they’re useless. No matter — there’s no medical consensus what constitutes a true positive, anyway. And, if you test positive, there’s no medical consensus which drugs to use or for how long.

At first maybe you get something like the flu. It goes away soon. A few years down the line, you might (or might not) develop a mysterious arthritis. If you pass that milestone without anybody figuring out what the hell is wrong with you, then you have a shot at tertiary Lyme, which is a lot like tertiary neurosyphilis. No, really. They’re both spirochete diseases.

borreliaburgdorferi.jpgSymptoms may include fatigue, muscle pain, joint pain (with or without arthritis), inflamed nerves, rash, cardiac arrhythmias, tachycardia, adrenal disorders, immune suppression, urinary disorders, muscle twitching, polyneuropathy or paresthesia, Bell’s palsy, encephalitis or encephalomyelitis, vision problems, severe sensitivity to sound and vibration, balance problems, seizures, myoclonus, ataxia, panic attacks, anxiety, depression, short-term memory loss, sleep disturbance, hallucinations, depersonalization, neurocognitive impairment or psychosis.

If you get there, you’re fucked. You have worms in your brain. You will not get better. The best possible outcome is to avoid getting any worse. This guy at work spent several years battling mystery symptoms — fatigue and weight loss, mostly — before they figured out it was Lyme. Now he’ll have to take fistsful of antibiotics every day for the rest of his life just to tread water.

The best plan: avoid ticks. Deer don’t carry Lyme (mice do), but deer carry the ticks that carry Lyme. In experimental settings (islands and the like), researchers have discovered that eliminating the deer does for the ticks, too. Sadly, eradicating all deer is not considered a viable option. I blame Disney.

So here’s the deal: ticks don’t live in the grass. Too dry. They don’t fall out of trees, either. They live in the moisty undergrowth, down low, latch onto anything that swings past, and start crawling UP. So treat your outdoor clothes from the bottom up: shoes and boots, then socks, then pants. Also gloves then shirts, if you garden. Okay, your hat, too…in case you fall face-first into the rhododendrons. Because we’ve seen you do that.

DEET is great for mosquitos, not good at all for ticks. You need permethrin for ticks — it flat out kills the little bastards. Curl up and die. The spray is okay for boots and gloves and the occasional touch up, but you really need to soak your outdoor gear, inside and out. Remember, ticks crawl up…your pantlegs, your sleeves.

This is the deal the URI people (and the military) recommend: roll up your outdoor pants, shirt and socks and put them in the bag provided. Add the bottle of dilute permethrin and two bottles of tapwater, squoosh it around and let it sit and soak for a couple of hours. Then take the outfit out and air dry it. Once dry, it’s odorless. You get a small fraction of the permethrin dose the FDA thinks is okay. Good for six weeks, including laundering. I wanted to ask how long it would last if you didn’t wash, but I didn’t want to sit alone at the picnic.

I know, I know…a total scary downer of a not-funny Monday post. But I’m all about the minions. Goodness knows the last thing you people need is more brain damage.


So I asked the guy standing next to this thing, “what is this thing?” and he says, “it’s an altar to the futility of all human endeavor. See? Someone’s left an offering of corn.” Why do I always stand next to the smartasses? Actually, it’s a deer feeder. And when the little deers stick their heads in for some corn, those rollers rub them down with tick-o-cide.


Comment from Steamboat McGoo
Time: June 4, 2007, 8:11 am

Weasel, did you notice that those symptoms pretty much track “getting old”? Geez….

Comment from Dawn
Time: June 4, 2007, 10:43 am

Thank you weasel. Now I can add deer ticks to the list of things that make me afraid. Heights. Animals that can eat me. Brown recluse spiders. and now because of deer ticks, mice and deer.
Stay the hell away from me, you creepy little worms that eat brains!!!

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: June 4, 2007, 10:54 am

Brrrr. Brown recluse spiders. My mom’s place back home is FULL of those evil little bastards.

Comment from Enas Yorl
Time: June 4, 2007, 1:58 pm

We got black widders here. They’re cheeky too.

Comment from Steamboat McGoo
Time: June 4, 2007, 5:29 pm

E-Y, Yeah, but widders are sure purdy. Purdiest spider-critters I ever saw, especially at night. The black enamel color glitters, and the red hourglass is soooo red.

Comment from lizardbrain
Time: June 10, 2007, 8:46 am

Well, of course you have hella Lyme there. You’re only spitting distance from the place they named it for. My third ex-father-in-law lives (or lived, I dunno if he still lives) in Old Lyme. Luckily, that was so long ago that I hadn’t even heard of Lyme disease.

My living quarters are rife with spiders. Most of them are brownish, but when I see them I’m usually not in the vicinity of my reading glasses, so I can’t make out their markings. And I don’t like to kill spiders without cause.

Black widders would be nice. It’s like a red “danger” sign on ’em. Makes ’em easy to spot.

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