Karl Died Three Years After Being Bitten By A Tick

Karl McManus was filming an episode of Home and Away in 2007 when he noticed a tick on him.

He waited until he finished the shoot in a wildlife park on Sydney's Northern Beaches before he tried to get it off.

Within three years from that bite, he was dead, aged just 43.

His widow -- leading tick expert and immunologist Dr Mualla McManus -- said his symptoms started within six weeks.

"At that time people were not aware of anything to do with tick borne diseases so each doctor we'd go to they'd say there's nothing wrong with you," Dr McManus said.

Karl was bitten on the chest by a tick in July 2007. Here he is with his wife Mualla McManus on their wedding day. Photo: Mualla McManus

"Then he showed really bad neurological symptoms and they tried to diagnose him with Motor Neuron Disease and multiple sclerosis but they didn't know which one it was and they were all confused.

"Because of all this confusion the disease progressed so much he ended up dying."

Her husband's battle has become a driving force in Dr McManus' life.

The immunologist set up the Karl McManus Foundation, liaises with governments, helped set up a clinical advisory committee and senate inquiry - all aimed at spreading awareness on the dangers of ticks.

Australia is heading into peak tick season and there are ways people can protect themselves and their pets.

How to Check Your Pets For Ticks

Every year 10,000 pet dogs and cats need veterinary treatment for ticks and more than 500 die.

"(Karl's) death was totally avoidable because if his symptoms were recognised really early and he got antibiotics he wouldn't have got chronic symptoms," Dr McManus said.

"When a tick bites you it releases an anaesthetic and you won’t feel the tick biting.

"That's why people can have ticks on them for three days not knowing it and then they scratch it, there's a big bubble there and they go "what the hell is this?" and then they realise it was a tick and they pull it out.

Karl's health deteriorated dramatically in less than a year. Photo:

"That's the worst thing you can do because you have got to remove it properly.

"The tick has a nose and what it does is release things that stop your blood from clotting, sucks your blood and releases its gut contents into your body."

Depending on what animal the tick has been feeding on before you, it can carry a lot of different bugs in its gut.

"The gut contents of the tick is where the bugs are, which will disseminate or spread into your blood and they will slowly take over and start causing symptoms," Dr McManus said.

"They can be deadly because a lot of the bugs in ticks grow slowly and you get symptoms slowly -- slow ongoing infection.

"Symptoms can happen six months down the track, a year down the track, and they are non-specific. One day you will get diarrhoea, the next day constipation, stiff neck, be sensitive to light, your ears are ringing - all happening but not at once.

"You go to your GP and they will address one problem at a time."

Dr Cameron Webb is a medical entomologist at NSW Health Pathology.

He says if you have been exposed to ticks and you are feeling unwell, you have a rash or are really tired you must go and see a health professional.

"The ticks that cause so many problems for our pets can also cause problems for us," Dr Webb warns.

"When ticks bite us they can cause a range of health problems everything from a mild skin reaction right through to quite severe allergic reactions and sometimes even the transmission of disease causing pathogens."

He said you should never try to remove a tick with your fingers.

"You run the risk of squeezing it and injecting more of that toxic tick saliva into your skin and causing a more severe reaction. The best thing is to take fine tipped tweezers, grab the tick close as close as possible to the skin and gently pull it out."

Ticks are very common along bushland coastal areas.

Experts say when you are out in the bush during tick season cover up - wear high socks or pants, or spray with insect repellant before you head out. Check yourself and your pets when you return, particularly behind the joints and ears.

"There's a range of health consequences sometimes very severe and that's why it's very important you take those steps to avoid tick bite in the first place."

"Once you remove the tick keep the bite site clean so you don't get any secondary infections."

For more information on removing a tick from your pet visit Sash.