5/22/2020 7:29:00 AM Ticks the season Tick-Borne Illness Center of Excellence in Woodruff ready for its first spring
Abigail Bostwick of the Lakeland Times
With its doors open for several months now, the Woodruff-based Tick-Borne Illness Center of Excellence is primed and ready as it enters its first tick season.
"May is Tick Awareness Month and we do have them coming in (already)," office manager Kathy McCaughn noted.
The first patient this year came in March 12. The last patient from the year prior was around Dec. 3, McCaughn added.
"This year looks like it will be another big year for ticks," clinic program director Connie Campbell said. "Do I need to be afraid to go outside? Absolutely not. Do I need to be vigilant to check for ticks daily? Absolutely."
The key is to do tick checks in the morning, night and when coming in from working outdoors, Campbell added.
"If you have a tick quickly remove it. Save it and bring it in in a Ziplock bag if you want it tested," she said. "If you have questions, give us a call. You want to watch for a rash or flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, nausea, stiff neck muscle/joint pain or headache. Also watch the site for healing and localized signs and symptoms of infection. Taking a picture of the site helps also."
About the Center
Led by the Open Medicine Institute (OMI), the Tick-Borne Illness Center of Excellence is a state-of-the-art, first-of-its-kind medical center where patients can be effectively diagnosed and treated - including those with chronic conditions brought on by tick bites. The center is located in the Howard Young Medical Center and opened in fall 2019.
"It has been overwhelmingly positive," Campbell said of the response since that time. "The community, Howard Young and the Foundation have been so gracious. What honestly caught me by such surprise is the prevalence. There is so much more need in this area and the surrounding states than we anticipated."
The data-driven center employs cutting-edge diagnostic equipment and advanced research methods. Staff works collaboratively with patients, referring physicians and regional specialists to identify and treat tick-borne illnesses, it has been noted.
"The community has shown a lot of interest and support. We have drawn over 500 people with area events and had an additional 217 people to date come into the clinic to donate toward tick-research," Campbell said. "'I have Lyme and want to help others,' one 82 year old patient stated."
The site has consultation, exam and research rooms as well as areas for patients to receive infusions and other treatments to improve their condition. The large reception area, adorned with artwork from area citizens, is designed for patient comfort and experience, according to Campbell.
"Hearing people with chronic or persistent Lyme disease that state, 'I didn't think I could ever feel this good again,'" Campbell said of the most rewarding experiences during the first few months in operation.
On staff is lead doctor and director, Dr. Andy Kogelnik. The Stanford-trained physician trained in infections disease, internationally recognized and has dedicated more than 20 years in work that has advanced many medical needs - including Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses.
There are a few new faces on staff since the center opened. Dr. Sam Shor serves as medical director for education. He has over 30 years of experience with Lyme disease and has been bringing his expertise from the east coast seeing patients via videoconference. Also new to the staff is Katelyn Dallmann, who serves as the center's researcher, and nurse practitioner, Ashley Johnson.
OMI is a community benefit organization, founded in 2009 in California. OMI has a focus on "precision-based" medical practice, and indicates they are at the forefront of "driving a precision medicine reset on traditional medical practice" that uses technology and careful, large scale measurements to make decisions for patients before, during and after treatment of an illness.
As tick season goes on, Campbell said the center looks forward to, "getting the word out and helping as many as we can" She says she can't emphasize enough to do a quick tick check when you come inside.
"Put your clothes in the dryer on high for 10 minutes after doing yard work or hunting," she said.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDD), Lyme disease is the fasted growing vector-borne infections disease in the United States. Wisconsin and Minnesota are some of the nation's hotspots and they are rated fourth and fifth in the country for reported cases, but it is widely believed many cases go unreported.
More than Lyme, ticks can transmit many other serious diseases, such as Babesiosis, Ehrilchiosis/Anaplasmosis, Bartonella and Powassan Virus.
Despite the high number of cases in the midwest, until the Woodruff clinic opened, the nearest center that treated tick patients and conducted research was 1,200 miles away.
"Minocqua was a logical place to stay," Kogelnik said upon its opening. "The community really needs it. It's an epidemic. The care is needed and the data is needed."
Patients who have a recent bite are welcome to come in, as well as those who suspect they've been suffering from complicated tick-borne illness complications.
"Symptoms can sometimes hit people really hard with aches where they can hardly lift their arm up, but can also really vary," Campbell said. "If you are acute or if you have had symptoms for awhile, the hope is that all patients will find some relief in their medical care and sometimes undiagnosed conditions at the Tick-Borne Illness Center of Excellence."
The facility provides a collaborative approach to patient care, beginning with precision-testing diagnosis, treatment designed for the patient, based on relevant data, a doctor who dedicates to the patient throughout the treatment and follow-up care.
Research also is at the forefront. The information derived from patients on this little studied area of medicine and care contributes to a larger, national database to help many more patients now and those later on.
"We also have a couple CDC studies going," Campbell said. "Katelyn Dallmann, the center's researcher, stated the studies pay and are presenting looking for anyone with a history of cancer, multiple sclerosis or Parkinson's disease If interested just email the center at email@example.com."
Treatments encompass approaches such as oral and IV therapies, diet as well as a very personal and individualized plan for each patient.
The Tick-Borne Center of Excellence has been funded by both the Howard Young Foundation and OMI. Another active partner in the project are the Women's Legacy Council, a committee of the Howard Young Foundation that promotes health care in the Northwoods.
Donations are still welcome and accepted, observed Elizabeth Gering, Howard Young Foundation donor relations and communications.
In the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Tick-Borne Illness Center of Excellence strives to stay on top of the situation and still accommodate and see patients.
"We have always done a lot of prep work online before patients arrive so we were used to doing things with patients remotely," Campbell said. "We have been used to videoconferencing for those far away, but we have to admit it has really been helpful and now with the COVID precautions. Patients also are really much better at it than they thought they would be."
Be a patient, find out more information
Anyone with questions or concerns can feel free to call the Tick-Borne Illness Center of Excellence at 715-203-1616 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The Center is also on Facebook, with numerous updates and educational information and opportunities.
Hour of operation are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday. Additional resources or information on donations also can be found calling 715-439-4005 or going to howardyoungfoundation.org.
Services are provided at fee. In the future, low income options are expected to be offered on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Anyone can participate in research and data-collecting by downloading a simple app on their phone. "The Tick App" is a collaboration between the midwest and Northeast Center of Excellence in Vector-Borne Disease. One can take a picture on the app and it helps researchers learn more about track ticks.
Abigail Bostwick may be reached at email@example.com.
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