The Cambrian

Tick season likely to be worse than usual because of rains

Bill and Shirley Bianchi at the March for Science in Cambria on Saturday, April 22. Bill Bianchi has recovered from a tick bite.
Bill and Shirley Bianchi at the March for Science in Cambria on Saturday, April 22. Bill Bianchi has recovered from a tick bite.

The large angry red spot on Bill Bianchi’s back was shrinking and fading away by Tuesday, April 25, according to his wife, former county supervisor Shirley Bianchi. The spot’s diminished size and color were due in part (no doubt) to her insistence April 15 that he seek emergency medical treatment immediately for his body’s response to a tick bite between his waist and left-side rib cage.

Within a few hours that day, the redness around the tick bite had expanded from the size of a quarter to a 3-inch diameter, and the color of the circular bite area had intensified to an angry, bright red, she said.

Shirley Bianchi has always remembered an incident years ago in which an embarrassed local man hadn’t sought treatment because of the sensitive location of his bite; 36 hours later, he died from blood poisoning.

So Bianchi insisted on taking her husband to a hospital emergency room without delay.

“I’ve had ticks on me for years,” Bill Bianchi said, “but none of them had exploded my immune system the way this one did.”

Heavy winter rains produced masses of tall grasses and weeds, and many deer, mice and other carrier species are flourishing. So this likely will be a bad year for tick bites, according to various sources, including

Bites from ticks can cause several diseases, including Lyme disease, an inflammatory condition that can cause a characteristic rash, flu-like symptoms (headache, muscle-and-joint aches, fever and chills) at first, and the later possibility of arthritis, neurological and cardiac disorders.

However, because Bianchi sought treatment so quickly, treatment that included antibiotics, the nurse practitioner has told the couple that he’s unlikely to get the autoimmune disease.

Even so, Shirley Bianchi said, “I’ll be checking the bite often” for the next several weeks, just to be sure.

For more about tick bites and Lyme disease, go to gov/PA.htm. A Lyme disease pamphlet there is available in English and Spanish; it includes instructions on removing a tick.

In the past, the Bianchis have has success dabbing Bag Balm on the tick, covering it with plastic wrap, and waiting for the tick to detach. However, because this tick had buried itself in Bill Bianchi’s body, that technique wouldn’t have worked, Shirley Bianchi said.

She advises, “If you don’t know what you’re doing in removing a tick, get professional help quickly.”