AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – A local man spent weeks recovering from a bug bite he never felt happen. Now, the 30-year-old is opening up about his experience with the disease.
Brian Culpepper remembers how his health took a downward spiral just a few weeks ago.
“I had to have had the worst headache I’ve ever had in my entire life,” he recalled.
He loves talking. In fact, Brain Culpepper was ready to serve as Best Ma in his brother wedding when he fell ill and couldn’t even bear to listen to anyone else talk.
“I was scared. I honestly thought this could potentially be a life ending event for me,” he explained.
The 30-year-old Augusta Tech student had a high fever of 103 follow his headaches, and then he developed a rash on his hands, arms and legs. Add flu like symptoms to that and doctors at Augusta University Medical Center diagnosed Culpepper with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, a tickborne disease.
“Whenever they started giving me the right antibiotic to treat me with, it was less than 24 hours later I started to improve immediately,” said Culpepper.
He spent time in early May working near brush in McDuffie County. That’s where he thinks he encountered the tick, but he never remembers getting bitten, even though he did.
Ticks transport diseases from animals to humans through biting, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People can get as many as nine different types of diseases from ticks, and the CDC reports the cases have increased by the thousands in the past 15 years.
Dr. Jose Vazquez, Chief of Infectious Disease at AUMC, said “Patients need to go on antibiotics right away. It is rare, a rare cause of death if patients get antibiotics right away.”
Prevention is key. The CDC suggest checking body parts, pets and outdoor gear daily when you come inside. Areas such as the scalp, neck, underneath the arms, behind the legs and even the buttocks are important to check.
And don’t kill ticks with your hands. Flush them down the toilet. Dr. Vazquez said this is important because you may not kill the tick when you squish it.
Culpepper’s bout with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is common along with Lyme Disease, which has tripled in the past 20 years.
“If it’s not treated or caught right away then patients can then develop heart abnormalities, brain abnormalities, paralysis and dementia,” Dr. Vazquez said.
A key prevention technique is repellent, something Culpepper said he forgot to do before going outside. The CDC recommends using repellent with 20% to 30% deet on your skin and clothing to prevent a tick bite. Also, wearing long pants and long sleeves helps too.
Finally, if you get sick and you know you’ve been working or camping near areas with brush, make sure you tell your doctor and that a tick bite is a possibility.
Photojournalist: Gary Hipps