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Disease Found in Ticks Across the Midwest

MOUNT WASHINGTON, Ohio (Rich Jaffe) -- We've all heard the old adage that "good things come in small packages."

Our next story is an example of the fact that some very bad things can also come in some very small packages.

A Mt Washington man is lucky to be alive after a run in with a potentially deadly bite from a tiny tick.  A bite he received while hiking at lake Cumberland.

Local 12's Rich Jaffe has this rather frightening story

This time of year there are lots of people in the woods.  Kentucky's gun season's in full swing for deer.  Ohio's bow season's also underway and lots of people are hiking through the fall.

But Jim Thomas knows that until it gets cold and stays cold a potentially deadly little bug is also in the woods.

No stranger to the outdoors, Jim Thomas is camping out for a space at Sands Montessori school but it was his hiking adventure at lake Cumberland in June that has had a lasting impact on him.  Three weeks after the hike he started feeling sick with a fever, headache and backache.

A few days later he was worse.

Thomas says, "I don't remember what happened, but what I'm told is I drove myself to the emergency room and they immediately admitted me because I had a 105 fever."

At this point no one thought about the fact that while hiking Jim had been bitten by a tiny blood sucker called a Lone Star tick.
Once in the hospital doctors took out his gall bladder.

He says, "They put a stent in my bile duct and they were telling my wife at that time that I was getting sicker every hour and that she should call people in because I probably wasn't going to make it through the day."

The tick had given Jim Ehrlichiosis.

According to the Centers for Disease Control the potentially lethal disease is found in a belt that swings just below Cincinnati.  As doctors tried to figure out what was wrong with Jim, he slipped into a coma.

"They woke me up three weeks after that. My kidneys shut down. My liver shut down.  I wasn't breathing on my own they had to intubate me."

Hungry for support, Jim's wife set up a Facebook page for him.  His sister in law remembered the tick bite.

With no other options the doctors tested him for the disease, and found it.  Simple antibiotics followed.
Unable to speak or even swallow, Jim was transferred to Drake hospital for rehab.  A process he's still working on with the help of physical therapists.
Doctor of Physical Therapy Jake Edmondson tells us initially it was a, "Challenge to walk maybe 30, 40,50 feet. Couldn't climb steps without severe shortness of breath...a lot of fatigue.  He just was quite tired to do normal, simple tasks of standing or walking...getting out of bed was certainly a challenge for him."

Better now Jim says he's, "Still gonna camp, still gonna hike but I will take better precautions now."

Those precautions include things like tucking your pants inside your socks and using insect repellents that contain deet.  Jim and his family did check for ticks when they got back from their hike they just didn't find the one that bit him because it was so small.

In Mt. Auburn, Rich Jaffe Local 12 News.

Jim Thomas works at University Hospital where he was treated.  Because doctors in Cincinnati don't see Ehrlichiosis (er-lick-ee-osis) very often, his associates have used him as a case study and have presented their findings to other doctors.

Jim still has problems as a result of the disease, but he continues to improve.

Watch video HERE



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