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Tick-borne illness victim: 'People need to know about this'

Tick-borne illness victim, 'People need to know about this'
Tick-borne illness victim, 'People need to know about this'
Posted at 11:41 AM, May 22, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-22 08:51:52-04

(WAFF/WTXL) - We're headed into the summer months,  and that means you'll probably spend more time outside. But that comes with risks: ticks on you, your kids, or your pets.

A tick bite can get you sick, which is something Jeff Ponzini knows well.

"I’m in the outdoors a lot. I’m in the woods, I’m in the wild settings, and I’ve actually contracted Rocky Mountain spotted fever," Ponzini said.

Ponzini said his job revolves around the outdoors, and his passion outside work is archery, another outdoor sport.

"It is a real problem with me because I live in the outdoors. I eat, breathe, sleep it, not only with work, but with my passion,” he said.

Ponzini said he pulled a tick off of himself a couple weeks ago. He didn't think much of it until he saw a bull's-eye-like rash around the bite.

"I went to my doctor and he confirmed. He thought it was Lyme disease because of the targeting around bite. My symptoms were similar to that.  After the blood work, it was confirmed Rocky Mountain spotted fever,” Ponzini said.

A Huntsville Hospital physician assistant confirms she's seen a lot of tick bites into her clinic recently.

"I would say over the past month or so I’ve seen a lot of tick bites coming into the clinic," Kathryn Limbaugh said.

The CDC has a lot of research on ticks and their illnesses on its website. Data from 2014 shows tick cases are most commonly reported in the summer months. And as far as Rocky Mountain spotted fever goes, southeastern and south central regions are were the disease is most prevalent. 

According to the Florida Health Department, 163 cases of RMSF were reported by residents of the state from 2002 through 2011. Of these cases, 77 percent of infections were acquired in Florida.

RMSF also poses a particular risk for the Big Bend area as the majority of infections acquired in Florida were reported from counties in the north and central regions of the state.

"Some of the symptoms we’re concerned about associated with tick-borne illnesses, such as Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever, are joint pain; general fatigue; not feeling very well; abdominal pain; nausea and vomiting,” Limbaugh said. “With Rocky Mountain you can develop a high fever, especially if you find a rash on your ankles or hands."

A good way to combat the threat? Bug spray. Ponzini said he's loaded up on it now and will never go outside in the yard or woods without it again.

"I’m tired. I don't have the energy I need to continue my job. I hurt continually. People need to know about this,” Ponzini said.

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