Have You Come in Contact With This Silent Killer in the Wilderness?
There are a lot of obviously fatal dangers in the Rocky Mountains, from bears to mountain lions, and fires to floods. But there's a silent killer most people and animals have come in contact with, and you might not realize how deadly it can actually be.
Health officials are warning us about a heart-stopping disease brought on by tick bites, KMSP-TV in Minnesota reports. According to the news outlet, Minnesota resident Steve Stolz noticed his heart began beating at a much slower rate than normal, and that was enough of a sign to go to the emergency room, he said.
Stolz had Lyme carditis (not to be mistaken with Lyme disease), the same disease that almost instantly took the life of another middle-aged man in Minnesota last year.
Dr. Alex Campbell from the Minneapolis Heart Institute tells KMSP-TV that patients with Lyme carditis are typically younger men, with 65% of patients with the disease ranging between ages 15 and 40.
"Nobody understands why, but that's what we see," said Campbell.
The corkscrew-shaped bacteria transmitted via tick bite works its way into the heart and burrows into the muscle. The body then creates an inflammatory reaction to fend it off, and the heart muscle or conduction system "gets caught in the cross fire," Campbell said. Electrical signals that keep the heart beating short circuit, slowing the heart rate to a stop or possibly developing a dangerously fast rhythm proven to be fatal.
The good news? Lyme carditis can be treated.
The CDC says only about 1% of those who get Lyme disease will develop Lyme carditis, and patients are given antibiotics or sometimes a temporary pace maker to treat the disease.
Obviously Northern Coloradans are equally susceptible to Lyme carditis, seeing as ticks are all over the place. So when you're outdoors, especially around brushy areas or out for a hike, remember to protect yourself with tick repellant. Double-check to make sure no ticks have attached themselves to you, and if they did, you have about 24 hours to get it off before it can infect you. If you find a tick on your body, a hot, soapy shower can help wash them away.
As for Steve Stolz - he was one of the lucky ones. He survived Lyme carditis, and so can you.