In retrospect, Jennifer Mankoff, now 37, believes she was infected with Lyme disease either during a trip to Ligonie, Pa., in 2005 or while hiking in Frick Park in Pittsburgh in the fall of 2006.
She got a rash, one whose cause was never diagnosed, after the Ligonier trip, and she actually picked a tick off her leg after the hike in Frick Park.
Either way, the Shadyside, Pa., woman, an associate professor in Carnegie Mellon University's Human-Computer Interaction Institute, got sick later in 2006. She's not exactly sure when the symptoms started, but she was so ill that she had friends come stay with her when her husband had to travel in December.
Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria carried by ticks most commonly referred to as deer ticks, although entomologists now identify them as blacklegged ticks. They have been infected as larvae and nymphs, which feed on birds or small mammals. Adult ticks prefer deer. Any stage can feed on humans, potentially passing on the disease. It is the most common tick-borne illness in North America and Europe, and, says Lyme disease researcher Andrew J. Nowalk of Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, it is a "devastating disease for patients who have it."