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Strange Wetlands: Preventing a Lesser Known Tick-Borne Illness, Anaplasmosis

My trusty dog, Sophie-Bea, a dachshund-pointer, and I frequently walk through wetlands. First, my land is rich in wetlands: a black ash seep, which I call “Fern Gully,” a vernal pool with wood frogs and sallies, and a perennial stream that flows into Raymond Pond. We like to walk along a pine-needled path from my woods down to the pond and back. Lately, a thick mustard yellow froth of pollen coats the surface of the pond. If I had let the dog wade in the water, she would have come out looking more like a yellow lab, albeit a weirdly shaped one. (She’s black and white.) At the edge of the pond, she sniffed the water and it turned her pointy black nose into a clownish canary blotch.  IMG_0295

This time of year, we’re more mindful of ticks. In addition to treating her with Frontline, I pat her down with a natural bug repellant called Skeeter Skedaddle™ – the kind that’s dog-friendly. I love how it smells. I wear it, too, and slathered it on that day, like any other day. I made the mistake of wearing sandals though and by the time I got home, I unstrapped the sandals to find a fat tick stuck to the top of my foot. It glowed red in its belly. I pulled it off and noticed two bite marks. After disposing of the tick, which is unwise to flush into the toilet I’ve learned, but to burn the tick with a match (carefully in the sink), I applied witch hazel and hydrogen peroxide onto the bites, along with a dab of antibacterial ointment. It doesn’t itch. It did worry me.

A year ago this month, I came down with a terrible flu-like illness called Anaplasmosis. It’s a tick-borne illness caused by a tick bite from a tick infected with the germ called Anaplasma phagocytophilum. Last summer, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention sent out an alert about Anaplasmosis. The alert explained that cases of Anaplasmosis are on the rise in Maine. Previously, it was rare for someone to contract this illness from a tick bite in the Pine Tree State. Even in summer 2012, hospitals misdiagnosed people with “the flu,” when in some cases, it was actually this Anaplasmosis. In my case, it was most likely Anaplasmosis, since I walk through the woods often and come into contact with areas known to inhabit ticks. I occasionally find ticks in my home.

Symptoms of Anaplasmosis include fever, headache, malaise, severe body aches, cough, joint pain, stiff neck and confusion.  In June 2012, I thought I’d eaten a bad avocado, or been exposed to the bad kind of an algae bloom while swimming in the lake. (I wrote about the algae bloom in my Adventures of Fen Fatale series.) At the time, I was working for ASWM and I started to feel sick on a Monday–sweaty, coming down with a fever, nausea. Images of globs of algae clung to me as I suffered through a fever of 102 degrees for two days. On Tuesday night, I called 911 and the EMTs came to my house, since I was convinced I was dying of some kind of poison,  tetanus or some other ill fate. It felt like my organs had seized up and everything hurt.  Chills all over. The body aches were so severe that I had to crawl down the stairs to let the EMTs into my house (rather than let them bust in the door). The EMTs found me delirious from the fever. Even after the fever came down on Wednesday, I couldn’t walk for a few days; my relatives came to take care of me, since I was bedridden. (This is highly unusual for me, since I have an almost superhuman immune system.) It was frightening, too.

See fact sheets, prevention info and notices to Maine residents from the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention here. 

Since then, I’ve done some research on how to prevent this from happening again. The reality is that Anaplasmosis is treated differently than that of Lyme Disease. When a person suspects that a tick bite has left that tell-tale sign, a bull’s eye shaped bite, that person has an option of getting an anti-biotic to prevent the onset of Lyme Disease. The same is not true for those who might have contracted Anaplasmosis. The main “prevention” is to reduce exposure to ticks by wearing appropriate clothing and checking clothes and skin for ticks. Apparently, in cases of people contracting Anaplasmosis, they often don’t remember getting a tick bite, and there is no tell-tale bull’s eye mark. For specific prevention and treatment information, visit . If you do get a tick bite, pay attention to symptoms if they occur. If you get a fever, and think you might have come into contact with a tick, contact your doctor or a health professional. Treatment is important. Anaplasmosis can be serious, or fatal, in babies, toddlers, elderly people and those with a compromised immune system. For others, it can mean a week of severe body aches, fever, malaise, etc. It certainly knocked the wind out of my sails.

Read these related blog posts:

Mosquitoes, ticks and bees are summer hazards, as are sunshine and poison ivy – Washington Post Blog – June 17, 2013

Drs. Oz and Roisen: Tick, tick, tick  – June 2013

Tick-borne disease is on the rise in Maine and Anaplasmosis in particular – May 2013


Beneficial Uses of Dredged Material – Are you Picking Up What I’m Putting Down (or vice verse)?

What is dredging? Underwater excavation is called “dredging.” Usually when people think of “dredged material,” they imagine the murky water from the sediments stirred up in the process of dredging a river, waterway or wetland. For example, the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) is beginning the work of dredging the Kennebec River in midcoast Maine to allow a 510’ warship built by Bath Iron Works to be transported safely down the river. Because this project is happening at the height of summer (and tourist season) and not in the winter, several petitions cried for a halt of the project. But the Maine Board of Environmental Protection and a federal judge rejected those petitions.

What most people don’t realize is that sometimes the Corps uses dredged material to restore coastal and wetland habitat. Depending on the type of sediment—rocky, gravel & sand, consolidated clay (hard and soft clay), silted/soft clay, or a mixture of these—there are a number of ways that dredged material can be used beneficially. Some applications include berms, shore protection, aquaculture, beach nourishment and replacement fill.

On the west coast, the Southwest Washington Littoral Drift Restoration Project, a state-federal collaborative effort, is evaluating the beneficial use of dredged material at Benson Beach (WA). In Florida, there is a potential project using Section 204 funding for beneficial uses of dredged material in the Destin area.

After the Gulf Oil spill, President Obama signed a bill in 2010 to allow for funding for the use of beneficial dredged material for coastal restoration in the Gulf.

The Coastal & Hydraulics Laboratory within the Corps is one of the lead organizations doing research on beneficial use of dredged material. One of their active projects is the SuperDustpan Beneficial Use Project in the Mississippi River. For their 2004 technical report, go to:;220

When coastal estuaries and islands erode, one option to restore the coastline is beach nourishment. This means replacing sediment. Dredged material is commonly used for “beach nourishment” projects, for example, in the Gulf shipping channel (near Texas) by South Padre Island

EPA has a number of resources to help in evaluating “beneficial use of dredged material” for the purpose of beach nourishment here: has also been involved in dredged material management projects:

The use of dredged material is a contentious issue because sometimes the sediments are contaminated, or the projects fail to serve their purpose. It is important to use clean dredged material. The links below go to more information.

Port of Portland Disposing of Contaminated Dredge Material on West Hayden Island

EPA’s Contaminated Sediments Program

Dredged material as a resource

Waste to Resource: Beneficial Use of Great Lakes Dredged Material

Around the country, other organizations (state, federal, regional coalitions and nongovernmental partners) are exploring beneficial uses of dredged material. For example, the Great Lakes Dredging Team—a partnership of state and federal agencies—are committed to assuring that dredging in channels within the Great Lakes is done in a timely manner that also meets environmental protection, restoration and enhancement goals. This team has a number of references available on its website for several applications of beneficial use of dredged material, including reclaimed mines and beach nourishment.

From a global perspective, beneficial use of dredged material is a growing area of research and technology. The international organization, PIANC, the World Association of Waterborne Transport Infrastructure, and has been involved with several research projects on this topic. For more information on understanding dredge & fill permitting programs, visit:

Why does the Turtle Cross the Road?

As I was driving home the other night after work, I had to swerve to avoid a little wood turtle that was crossing the road. I slowed down, looked for a place to pull over. There was none. I decided not to pull over, considering the high volume of traffic. Then I continued to fret over the fate of the turtle the whole way home. I hoped that the other drivers would notice him, too, or her, and hoped the turtle wasn’t attempting a roundtrip across busy Route 302. Why do turtles do that? They have the tendency to pull their heads and legs into their shell when scared by an oncoming car, then can get smashed. Some turtle species like the sandy soils along the embankments of roads and this is where they choose to make their nests. It spells disaster for some turtles whereas others choose less busy roads and survive. For a related New Jersey story, “Rising Turtle Deaths Stymie Researchers,” go to:

As one way to address the roadkill problem, wildlife biologists and engineers with state and federal agencies, such as FWS and the Corps, have developed wildlife-friendly stream-crossings. For additional resources on wildlife stream-crossing research, visit the following links:

USDA Forest Service articles

Biologically Sound Stream Crossings, by Scott Jackson (PowerPoint presentation for ASWM)

Massachusetts Stream-Crossings Handbook

US FWS -Ashland NFWCO (Midwest) – Planning and Designing Fish Friendly Stream Crossings

Stream Continuity Project (University of Massachusetts, Amherst)

Wildlife-Friendly Stream and Undercrossings Research

Natural Heritage – Turtle Information and Conservation Tips (Mass Natural Heritage Program)