Young Emmalee Setzer in Ohio was simply doing what a lot of kids love to do in the summer: rolling on the ground and enjoying the sprinkler. After a half hour or so, she came in to take a nap.
As she slept, her mom, Beka Setzer, noticed something unusual. Emmalee had minuscule black dots covering her arms, abdomen, legs, and armpits.
Beka thought they were seeds and tried to wipe them off. It was then she was horrified to find they were actually ticks.
To be exact, they were seed ticks — ticks in the larval stage that are about the size of a pinhead. Beka picked about 150 of them off of her daughter before bathing her, washing all of the bedding and clothing, and giving her daughter an antihistamine.
The next morning, her daughter had a low fever and a swollen lymph node. Beka took her to a doctor who started her on antibiotics.
After making sure her daughter was OK, her next step was to alert other parents. “I felt obligated to let others know,” she said recently.
She penned a Facebook post with photos of the red marks on her daughter’s arm and legs, along with a photo and video of one of the seed ticks, so people would know what to look for. Parents appreciated the heads-up, and passed it along to others.
In all, nearly 567,000 people have shared the story since she posted it in the summer of 2016. As we approach summer 2017, the post is making the rounds again with good reason.
Experts have said that 2017 could be a particularly bad year for Lyme disease, which can be transmitted from seed ticks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2015 that “Lyme is present in more than 260 counties,” according to NPR.
“Whether it’s a bad season or not, there’s still going to be a lot of human cases of tick-borne diseases,” an epidemiologist for the CDC told NPR. “What’s important for people to know is that the ticks are spreading to new areas — and tick-borne diseases are coming with them.”
Beka has continued to find seed ticks in her area and recently posted a photo of one next to a penny to emphasize its tiny size. But the good news is that little Emmalee is doing great and has twice tested negative for Lyme disease.
“Maybe we can turn a bad experience into saving another child from what you and little Emmalee went through,” one woman wrote on Facebook. Beka responded, “That was my hope.”
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