Monday, August 18, 2014

‘Help us’ say family, who all have life-threatening Lyme disease caused by tick bite

The Hill family - Nick, Fiona, Max, 8, and Jess, 5, all have Lyme disease and are raising
The Hill family - Nick, Fiona, Max, 8, and Jess, 5, all have Lyme disease and are raising money for treatment in Germany. Pictured in their Manly home.

A family who are all battling the same life-threatening illness say it was caused by a single tick bite. 

Fiona Hall, 39, from Manly, says ticks are prevalent on the northern beaches and she thinks she was bitten around ten years ago.

But despite debilitating symptoms including extreme fatigue, muscle wastage, weight loss, aching joints, spasms and neurological problems to name a few, she was only diagnosed with Lyme disease last year after blood tests were sent to the US for analysis, following years of misdiagnosis.
Electron Microscope images of a tick.
Electron Microscope images of a tick.

Her two children Max, 8 and Jess, 5, who are also displaying symptoms, have also had blood tests come back positive.

Dad Nick, 42, believes he also has Lyme disease although he hasn’t had a blood test.
Through her tears Mrs Hall, told the Manly Daily their lives had been devastated by this tick bite.
“It’s been life changing,” said Mrs Hall, a nurse, who has been too sick to work for the past few years.
The Hill family - Nick, Fiona, Max, 8, and Jess, 5, all have Lyme disease and are raising

The Hill family - Nick, Fiona, Max, 8, and Jess, 5, all have Lyme disease and are raising money for treatment in Germany. Mr Hall will be running in the Pub 2 Pub in his lime green suit. Photo by Annika Enderborg
“I have been so ill, but the children are my biggest worry. I am so frightened for them. Evidence suggests when they hit puberty their health will worsen.”

Health chiefs are currently reviewing the status of the disease which has never been recognised in Australia, unlike the US and Europe.

If Lyme disease or a Lyme-like disease is recognised it could lead to improvements in diagnosis and awareness.

But, Jennifer Sherer, vice-president of the Lyme Disease Association of Australia, insisted the northern beaches were a “known Lyme disease tick hotspot”.
                                       Deer tick embedded in skin of leg. These ticks are approximately 2.5mm long and can trans
Deer tick embedded in skin of leg.  These ticks are approximately 2.5mm long and can transmit Lyme disease to humans.

Early symptoms may include fever, headache and fatigue. If the disease is caught quickly, within the first few weeks, it can be treated simply with antibiotics, but if not the bacteria borrelia can invade every area of the body and becomes difficult to treat. It can even kill.

Like many people, Mrs Hall doesn’t even remember being bitten and she didn’t get the tell tell bullseye rash around the bite area. But what she does know is her health has dramatically declined, particularly over the last two years.

She believes she was the only one infected in the family, but unwittingly passed on the disease to her children while pregnant and also to her husband.

Doctors offering pioneering treatment at a specialist clinic in Germany, where more than 100 Australians are being treated this year, say the disease can be passed sexually from person to person and partners need to be treated too.
                                       The Hill family - Nick, Fiona, Max, 8, and Jess, 5, all have Lyme disease and are raising
The Hill family - Nick, Fiona, Max, 8, and Jess, 5, all have Lyme disease and are raising money for treatment in Germany. Pictured in their Manly home. Photo by Annika Enderborg

The treatment is not for the faint-hearted. Patients are put under anaesthetic and their body is slowly heated to a temperature of 42 degrees. The borrelia bacteria which causes Lyme disease dies at 41.5 degrees.
While children can’t be treated at this clinic, the family are looking at similar treatment for them at other clinics in Germany.

The couple are currently selling their home in Manly to help fund the treatment which costs over $21,500 per person not including flights and accommodation or the recommended aftercare and supplements which will be over $500 per week, and are appealing to the generosity of people on the northern beaches to help fund the treatment.

Mr Hall, an online trader, said they had exhausted their finances to pay for alternative therapies which have eased symptoms for Mrs Hall.

Mr Hall is dressing in a lime skin tight suit and running in the Pub 2 Pub 13km fun run next Sunday to raise funds for his family and raise awareness of Lyme disease.

■ Ideally spray tick with ether-containing aerosol spray (available over the counter at pharmacies) to kill it and wait for it to drop off
■ Don’t use tweezers, or pull or push on tick, this may cause it to release toxins from saliva sacks
■ Otherwise use a knife and try to scrape tick off
■ Avoid scratching areas you can’t see

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We are receiving unusually high rates of calls from clients regarding ticks at their homes. With the recent warmer days, ticks are quickly establishing themselves in home owners gardens much to the dislike of home owners and their pets.
Recently we completed a treatment to control ticks in the Toowong area where our customer was finding ticks on his arms and legs after working around his yard.

Tick Characteristics

Ticks only food source is blood of warm-blooded animals and all active stages require a blood meal for nutrition. The most common hosts are dogs, cats, bandicoots, echidnas and possums, however sometimes humans can also provide the nutrition they need.

Health risks and issues

Ticks are responsible for the poisoning of many native and domestic animals. The effects range from discomfort and illness to death. In humans, effects can range from mild to severe allergic reactions to paralysis. There have been recorded deaths attributed to the paralysis tick. Ticks also have the potential to spread infectious diseases, although Australia is largely free of tick borne diseases.
If you are bitten by a tick, do not touch the tick as this will make the situation worse. Follow these First Aid steps to remove the tick as quickly as possible.

Health risks for your pets

Early signs that your pet may have come into contact with a tick include:
  • Wobbly’ in the back legs or unsteady on their feet
  • Change in tone of your dogs bark
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting or dry retching
  • Excessive salivation
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Coughing
  • Noisy panting
If your suspect your pets are suffering from the effect of tick poisoning, please contact your local Veterinarian immediately.

How do you get rid of ticks?

Effective removal of ticks is best achieved through an Integrated Pest Management approach, which include changing the habitat and chemical control.

Top Tips – DIY

You can also follow these simple steps to help reduce ticks at your place:
  • Mow lawns and attend to other habitat modifications as recommended by your technician.
  • Treat pets with approved tick treatments.
  • Remove children’s toys and similar items from the yard when not in use.
  • Discuss other requirements with your local Amalgamated Pest Control branch. i.e., what needs to be done after treatment?

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