The black dot in the middle of the reddish circle was so tiny you could barely see it, and unless you were a contortionist you couldn’t see the inelegant place where it was lodged either. Just like a tick, to bury itself in a warm spot that’s almost invisible to its unwitting human host — in the ears, back of the knees, below the belt, in the belly button, top of the head.
The circle had gotten larger and redder and itchier over three or four days until it seemed the better part of wisdom to have it looked at. Although the good people at the walk-in medical center weren’t even sure the dot was a tick, just to be on the safe side doxycycline was prescribed. Two a day for two weeks, eat yogurt, and stay out of the sun.
There were a dozen people moping around the medical center, all but one with tick bites, and as many or more in line afterward at the pharmacy, almost everybody waiting for the same antibiotic. The pharmacist said he could hardly keep the stuff in stock. “Right there where you’re standing,” he said, they’d found a tick on the floor, “and we have no grass, as you can see.”
Although Rocky Mountain spotted fever (transmitted by dog tick) had been around for longer, Lyme disease was first recognized on the Connecticut coast in 1975; eight years later, its cause was discovered, and since then almost every passing year has turned up some new depressing tick-related illness: babesiosis (black-legged tick), erlichiosis (Lone Star tick), and tularemia (dog and Lone Star both). Last year, scientists found a causal link between a bite from a Lone Star tick and a sudden allergy to meat, of all things — beef, lamb, pork, even prosciutto — that presents as burning, itching hives and sometimes difficulty breathing a few hours after dinner. Cases have been concentrated mostly in the South, but, says the University of Virginia scientist who first made the connection, “allergy clusters have also cropped up in Pennsylvania and the East Hamptons in New York.”
Unless you live on a houseboat, or maybe at the top of a lighthouse, you’d have to agree that we here in the “East Hamptons” are having the worst tick season in years, and it’s only just begun. Careful with that steak.