Tick-borne illness diagnosis saves woman's life - WGEM.com: Quincy News, Weather, Sports, and Radio

Tick-borne illness diagnosis saves woman's life

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Jeana Shepard lets her dog outside. Jeana Shepard lets her dog outside.
Close up look at ticks. Close up look at ticks.
Outside look at the Blessing Walk-In Clinic. Outside look at the Blessing Walk-In Clinic.
Jeana Shepard closes a cupboard in her kitchen. Jeana Shepard closes a cupboard in her kitchen.
HANNIBAL, Mo. (WGEM) -

It's a potentially deadly disease, but one you might not think Tri-State residents would catch.

It wasn't long ago Jeana Shepard sat in her home feeling like there's no hope of getting better.

"I was lethargic," Shepard described. "My muscles hurt. I had a lot of blurry vision."

For months, doctors tried figuring out what was wrong, testing her for various illnesses including cancer. All of them coming back negative.

"I thought it was my time," she said. "You know I just thought, I'm going to die from whatever this is. It was just hard."

Eight months after the first sign of symptoms, she noticed a rash on her leg. Shepard came to the Blessing Walk-in Clinic for cream. Doctor Nickolas Gillette wanted to do one more test.

"I better ask her at least if she had been bitten by a tick," Dr. Gillette said.

The test came back positive for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. 

"I sat here and wept and cried," Shepard explained.

She finally had her answer. The CDC says it's a bacterial disease spread through the bite of a tick. If not treated early enough, it can be deadly.

"The geographic distribution used to be where we didn't see it much here," Dr. Gillette explained. "Truth be told, we're seeing it a lot more commonly."

Dr. Gillette says it can be hard to diagnose a tick-borne illness because it mirrors flu-like symptoms.

"People can run a fever," Dr. Gillette described. "They get body aches. They feel very, very fatigued many times, but all of that is vague."

Shepard hopes others learn from this as well.

"I believe Dr. Gillette saved my life," Shepard added. "I truly believe by this point I would be dead without him."

The CDC says there's no vaccine to prevent this disease. Health officials say the best way to protect yourself is cover as much skin as possible when outside, use repellant, and get tick bites checked out by a doctor.

Learn more about Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever here.

You can also find information about Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever on the Illinois Department of Public Health website.

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