Man battles tickborne disease that also killed sister - KCTV5

Man battles tickborne disease that also killed sister

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KANSAS CITY, KS (KCTV) -

Ticks are expected to be bad this season and one man wants people to know just how serious the diseases they carry can be.

"We picked them off all of our life, didn't think much of it until my sister started feeling sick," said Leroy Newell. "She was my best friend. She got it before I did."

Newell said six months before his best friend and sister Jackie died from the tickborne disease, he was also diagnosed with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

"She said ‘I hope they got yours in time.' I didn't know what she meant at the time when she was telling me that," he said.

Don't let the name fool you, Rocky Mountains aren't needed to catch the disease. The American dog tick and the brown dog tick are found in both Kansas and Missouri and can carry Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and all ticks have the potential to carry disease.

"It messed me totally up, it zapped my energy," Newell said. "I started getting sick like three weeks after. I thought, ‘dang something's wrong with me.'"

Initial symptoms of the illness include: fever, headache, abdominal pain, vomiting, and muscle pain. A rash may also develop, but is often absent in the first few days, and in some patients, never develops.

Newell has been battling symptoms from his tick bite for awhile.

"It's been a vicious cycle for three years, it got to the point where I couldn't brush my teeth," he said. "I just want to get out the awareness. I'd like to get research for funding because there's ticks everywhere."

Newell wants people and doctors to become more aware and proactive so that what happened to him and his sister doesn't happen again.

"If they wait too long, it's too long," he said. "I take nothing for granted, this is so serious."

Cases of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever have popped up in all 50 states, but 60 percent of all cases only happen in five states and Missouri is one of them.

Sprays with DEET work well to keep ticks at bay, but it's recommended to always check with your doctor if you start feeling ill after getting bit by a tick.

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