African arthropod + Tex-expat = African tick bite fever
On the Tuesday after a long Easter weekend, I found two small ticks around my waist line and another under my left arm. (I would have preferred to have found chocolate eggs, or perhaps those plastic egg-shaped hollow contraptions where my parents would occasionally put jelly beans, chewing gum, or even a dollar bill.)
The ticks were roughly the size of coarsely ground pepper, and likely originated from the farm where I had just spent a pleasant holiday.
The speck-like arthropods seemed to be having a pleasant weekend as well, at least up to the time when the tweezers from my Swiss army knife interrupted their final blood-feast.
As long as I can remember, ticks have always loved me. Mosquitoes too. And biting flies. Until recently, I sort of took it as a compliment, for I assumed it meant that I had especially nutritious blood.
The fatigue and muscle aches began around eleven Saturday evening, along with a low-grade fever. One of the three bites, before just a tiny red bump, began to grow.
It is now 8mm or so, more raised, painful, red on the outside and black in the center, like a small inactive volcano (on Mars?) or a miniature stwarberry, molten chocolate Bundt cake.
Dermatologists might call the lesion 'papulovesicular', 'erethematous', 'ulcerated', or 'necrotic'.
The official name of this type of skin problem is 'eschar', from the Greek word 'eschara', meaning 'fireplace.' (Another apt image.)
I have not included a photo of my 'eschar' as it is just below my belly button and I am a bit shy about picture-taking near my naval.
The above image looks very similar...and less compromising.
For those of you who have been reading my blog, you have probably noticed that, besides thinking that I had TB after an ambiguous skin test early this year, I have not whined much about personal ailments.
That is not because I do not sometimes like to whine (why else keep a blog?), but rather because I have remained quite well.
I drink tap water, eat whatever is in front of me, spend much my time with coughing, sneezing, drooling, snotty children, and traipse/bike/run throughout the snake- and tick-ridden African countryside.
I have been fortunate enough to remain largely unscathed.
Well, I am scathed today.
The fever is persistent but responds well to Advil. 10-14 days of doxycycline should annihilate the "rickettsia" bacteria, the parasite within the ex-tick that is actually responsible for my symptoms.
It is sometimes difficult to know whether to blame the germ, the vector, or the irresistable, nutrient-rich victim in these matters.
Of the three potential culprits, at least I will live to tell about it, for African tick bite fever is rarely lethal.
Unfortunately, many vectors and germs that roam these parts are much deadlier.