Beware: Ticks carrying Lyme disease are found in Western Washington, too

SEATTLE -- A new study shows there are ticks in western Washington that carry Lyme disease.

Tick bites happen most often in the spring and summer when more people are outdoors -- camping or hiking or in wooded areas.

Spending time outdoors is what summer is all about, but with that comes those dreaded bugs, like ticks that attach themselves onto you and feed off your body until you remove them.

“The tick that carries Lyme disease is found in Washington, especially in Western Washington. We’ve documented it. However, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease is detected in very low levels in these ticks," said Hanna Oltean, with the Washington Department of Health.

Oltean says a tick has to be hooked onto you for at least 24 hours in order to transfer Lyme disease to humans. Symptoms of Lyme disease can be felt between three and 30 days after a tick bite.

"Symptoms include a bulls-eye or target-shaped rash that expands in size, fever, fatigue and joint pain," said Oltean.

"It's real, cause I am living it," said Evangelia Vensel. "I just found out (was diagnosed) about a year and a half ago,"

Getting that diagnosis took years. Vensel says she was misdiagnosed with a host of other illnesses.

"Endometriosis, interstitial cystitis, anxiety, depression," she said.

Sitting across the table from her, Faye remembers getting the bulls-eye rash after a tick bite.

"Mine was probably about that big and I had a little ones around it," said Faye.

These women say living with Lyme disease is debilitating. They urge other parents to check themselves and children for ticks after spending time outdoors, especially in wooded areas.

"We have less than 10 cases per year in people who have not traveled outside the state," said Oltean, who added the Northeast and Midwest are the parts of the country with higher number of Lyme disease.

The Washington Department of Health says Lyme disease is rare in Washington state, and not all cases are reported to the health department but that it is a serious illness and you should take measures to protect against it this time of year.

"It is a good idea to wear insect repellents containing Deet," said Oltean.

The study: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0199644

Dept. of Health Tick page: https://www.doh.wa.gov/CommunityandEnvironment/Pests/Ticks