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‘Don’t underestimate ticks’: Warning after women’s deadly bite

MARIA Messmer didn't think a minor tick bite could leave her deathly ill with a disease had doctors scratching their heads.

Ms Messmer, of Brinsmead was camping at Lake Tinaroo in August when she found he had been bitten by "a little tick."

"I didn't think anything of it," Ms Messmer said.

"Two weeks later I was really sick. I had a crushing headache, a really high fever. I simply couldn't move."

Maria Messmer from Brinsmead was seriously ill with Q fever after a tick bite. Picture: Stewart McLean
Maria Messmer from Brinsmead was seriously ill with Q fever after a tick bite. Picture: Stewart McLean

Delirious and drenched with sweat, she was admitted to the Emergency Department.

All told Ms Messmer was incapacitated for three weeks, including one week in hospital.

"I never realised how sick humans could get from a tick bite."

"All my levels were all over the place, my liver wasn't happy and I had fluid on the lungs.

"'Deranged' was the word they used for my results."

After numerous tests doctors confirmed she had contracted Q Fever, a disease commonly associated with live stock, but in this case most probably passed on from a macropod.

"Don't underestimate ticks," Ms Messmer said.

"If you get symptoms, take them seriously."

Cairns Tropical Public Health Services has confirmed 23 recent cases of Q Fever in the region, with most cases in the Mareeba area.

 

 

The Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service Executive Director Medical services Dr Don Mackie. PICTURE: ANNA ROGERS
The Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service Executive Director Medical services Dr Don Mackie. PICTURE: ANNA ROGERS

 

"This year we have had 38 cases present in our Emergency Department," Cairns Hospital medical director Dr Don Mackie said.

"It is an unusual disease to get through a tick bite, certainly typhus is much more common."

He said the dry and hot conditions were ideal for ticks to thrive.

Q Fever is an illness caused by the bacteria Coxiella burnetii and symptoms include fever and chills; severe sweats; severe headache, especially behind the eyes; muscle pain; weakness and tiredness; and weight loss.

People become infected with the bacteria by breathing in droplets or dust contaminated by birth fluids, faeces, or urine from infected animals.

"It's important to check for ticks on your body and clothing during and after spending time in national

parks and forested areas," Dr Mackie said.

"You may not feel a tick until a couple of days later, so it's really important to check yourself. Ticks like warm areas of the body and are often found at the back of the head and neck, groin, armpits and backs of knees.

"If you can, get someone to help you check for hard to see areas like on your back or along your."

 

Ticks can cause typhus and rarely, Q Fever.
Ticks can cause typhus and rarely, Q Fever.

 

Tick first aid

To remove a tick, first kill the tick by spraying it with a product that contains ether

(such as Wart-Off Freeze or Cold Spray) or applying permethrin cream.

Wait about 10 minutes after treatment for the tick to die.

Carefully brush it off.

Follow general first aid for bites and stings, and make sure you do a careful body search for

other ticks.

If you can't remove a tick safely by yourself or if you start to feel unwell in the days after removing a tick, consult your doctor.

If you have an allergic reaction go to your local emergency department.

 

 

 

Originally published as 'Don't underestimate ticks': Warning after women's deadly bite



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