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'AJ never felt the tick bite that spreads Lyme Disease



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August 18, 2010 - By David Fleet

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AJ Craven lived for baseball.

The 8-year-old Fenton first grade student had played the game since he was 2-years-old, recalls Eileen Craven, his mother.

"He just loved to play—so when he woke up late for a game one spring day I became suspicious—something was not quite right. AJ was very tired all day and complained he was cold all the time, too. Then, during the game the ball rolled right by him at second base—he never even flinched. That would have been a routine play for him."

Eileen began noticing major changes in the health of her son during the spring and summer of 2009.

"His health was going downhill from there. He'd sleep late in the day, he struggled with the smallest thing. Some days he'd play for an hour than have to lay on the couch for a nap. AJ would be in the middle of a conversation and forget what he was saying halfway through. Even his balance was off."

Over the next few months, AJ underwent a host of medical procedures including MRIs, and tests for cancer and parasites. After more than four months, AJs illness remained undiagnosed—his symptoms seemed to baffle the medical world. Then in August 2009, AJ was examined by Saginaw based-physician Dr. Ledtke who works in the Lyme Disease community. AJ's blood samples were sent to California where he tested positive for Lyme Disease.

"AJ never felt the tick bite that spreads Lyme (disease), there was no rashes or anything. The bite is about the size of a poppy seed—it could have been anywhere on his body."

While unsure just where or when AJ was bitten, Eileen suspects it was around the family home—two acres near a small lake in a wooded section just southwest of Groveland Township. The area is full of geese, small animals and deer. Thick underbrush covers most of the property, a perfect habitat for the tick, said Eileen.

"Today we do tick checks, use DEET, wear long pants, long sleeves and rubber bands around shirts to prevent ticks from getting to the kids," she said.

Lyme Disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi (B. burgdorferi). Certain ticks may carry these bacteria. The ticks pick up the bacteria when they bite mice or deer that are infected with Lyme Disease. You can get the disease if an infected tick bites you, according to medical professionals.

Risk factors for Lyme Disease include: Having a pet that may carry ticks home, taking part in activities that increase tick exposure or walking in high grasses. The parts of the United States where the chance of getting Lyme Disease is higher include: New England, the mid-Atlantic states and the north-central states which includes Michigan.

Deer ticks can be so small that they are almost impossible to see. Therefore, many people with Lyme disease never knew they had a tick bite. Unlike a mosquito bite, a tick bite cannot be felt. In most cases, the tick must stay on the body for 48 hours to transmit the bacteria to humans

Linda Lobes, president of the Michigan Lyme Disease Association said there's been five cases of Lyme Disease reported in Oakland County so far this year. There were a total of 14 cases across Oakland County in 2009.

"If a county has two or more reported cases it's epidemic," said Lobes. "Prevention is the key—stay aware of the surroundings. Check for ticks, too—knowing how to remove ticks will reduce the risk. Gently pulling the tick out until it releases itself, it may look like a blood blister or small bump. People think they can burn the tick out with a cigarette or pour gas on it—that will not work."

To help the fight against Lyme Disease, on Sept. 18 the Michigan Lyme Disease Association will host a Walk/Run/Sit-A-Thon Family Picnic at Heritage Park, Frankenmuth.

The public is welcome to walk or run in the event. Pledges are based on participation, not miles or time.

Each participant is asked to either donate or raise a minimum of $20 in pledges. If more than one family member is participating, then add an additional $5 for each family member. Walk-ins are welcome. T-Shirt sizes are not guaranteed without pre-registration.

The Michigan Lyme Disease Association is an all volunteer, non-profit organization. Details: 888-784-5963.

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