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News

E. coli found in Los Altos water indicated breach, but only low risk

E. coli found in Los Altos water indicated breach, but only low risk


Courtesy of Microbe World
Colorized low-temperature electron micrograph of a cluster of E. coli bacteria

When E. coli and other bacteria were discovered in some Los Altos water last week, officials from the local water supplier, California Water...

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Schools

BCS hosts Stretch to Kindergarten program for underserved youth

BCS hosts Stretch to Kindergarten program for underserved youth


Traci Newell/Town Crier
The six-week, tuition-free Stretch to Kindergarten program, hosted at Bullis Charter School, serves children who have not attended preschool. A teacher leads children in singing about the parts of a butterfly, above.

Local un...

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Community

Google car painting project calls on artists

Google car painting project calls on artists


Google self-driving car

Already known as an innovator in the tech field, Google Inc. is now moving in on the art world.

The Mountain View-based company July 11 launched the “Paint the Town” contest, a “moving art experiment” that invites Califo...

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Sports

Pedaling with a purpose

Pedaling with a purpose


courtesy of
Rishi Bommannan Rishi Bommannan cycled from Bates College in Maine to his home in Los Altos Hills, taking several selfies along the way. He also raised nearly $13,000 for the Livestrong Foundation, which supports cancer patients.

When R...

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Comment

The truth about coyotes: Other Voices

The Town Crier’s recent article on coyotes venturing down from the foothills in search of sustenance referenced the organization Project Coyote (“Recent coyote attacks keep residents on edge,” July 1). Do not waste your time contac...

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Special Sections

Grant Park senior program made permanent

Grant Park senior program made permanent


Photos by Alicia Castro/Town Crier
Local residents participate in an exercise class at the Grant Park Senior Center, above. Betsy Reeves, below left with Gail Enenstein, lobbied for senior programming in south Los Altos.

It all began when Betsy Reev...

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Business

New State Street rug retailer has downtown Los Altos covered

New State Street rug retailer has downtown Los Altos covered


Alicia Castro/Town Crier
Los Altos Rug Gallery owner Fahim Karimi stocks his State Street store with a wall-to-wall array of floor coverings.

A new downtown business owner plans to roll out the red carpet – along with rugs of every other color –...

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Books

Book Signings

• Fritz and Nomi Trapnell have scheduled a book-signing party 4-6 p.m. Aug. 1 at their home, 648 University Ave., Los Altos.

Fritz and his daughter, Dana Tibbitts, co-authored “Harnessing the Sky: Frederick ‘Trap’ Trapnell, ...

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People

GRACE WILSON FRANKS

GRACE WILSON FRANKS

Resident of Los Altos

Grace Wilson Franks, our beloved mother and grandmother, left us peacefully on July 16, 2015 just a few weeks short of her 92nd birthday. She was born to Ross and Florence (Cruzan) Wilson in rural Tulare, California on Septem...

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Travel

Gearing up: Make travel more civilized with accessories

Gearing up: Make travel more civilized with accessories


Eren Göknar/Special to the Town Crier
San Francisco-based humangear Inc. sells totes, tubes and tubs for traveling.

In travel, as in romance, it’s the little things that count.

Beyond the glossy brochures lie the travel discomforts too mun...

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Stepping Out

Going out with a 'Bang'

Going out with a 'Bang'


Richard Mayer/Special to the Town Crier
“Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” stars, clockwise from top left, Alexander Sanchez, Sophia Sturiale, Deborah Rosengaus and Danny Martin.

Los Altos Stage Company and Los Altos Youth Theatre’s joint production of t...

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Spiritual Life

Build a 'light' house and get out of that dark place

Most of us have a place inside our hearts and minds that occasionally causes us trouble. For some, it is sadness, depression or despair. For others, it may be fear, anger, resentment or myriad other emotional “dark places” that at times seem to hij...

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Magazine

Inside Mountain View

Residents gather at NASA Ames for Pluto Flyby event

Residents gather at NASA Ames for Pluto Flyby event


Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
NASA Ames’ Pluto Flyover event kindles the imaginations of young attendees.

Sue Moore watched the July 20, 1969, moon landing beside patients and staff members of the San Francisco hospital where she worked as a nurse...

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Parasite packs big bite: Tick-inflicted Lyme disease can leave a lasting mark for the unlucky few


Photo By: Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Photo Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier Los Altos resident Kathleen O’Rourke and her son, Louis Sheridan, contracted Lyme disease and now advocate preventive measures through the Bay Area Lyme Foundation.

An afternoon of gardening may seem harmless, but it proved perilous for Kathleen O’Rourke more than four years ago. Bitten by a tick, the Los Altos resident was infected with Lyme disease.

Just months before her diagnosis, O’Rourke’s son, Louis Sheridan, fell severely ill from the disease, tipping her off to the possibility that she might also be infected. O’Rourke didn’t see or feel a tick bite, but she said she suspects coming in contact with a tick in her backyard, an area frequented by deer, one of the primary carriers. She believes a tick brought into the house by their dog bit her son.

While her son recovered within a year – thanks to antibiotic treatments – O’Rourke is only now recovering from the lingering fog that has hampered her cognitive and physical well-being.

“I’ve been through a war and I’m in repair phase,” she said.

Lyme – a bacterial ailment contracted through the bite of an infected tick – can cause severe brain and neurological damage if untreated. Anyone who frequents the outdoors or comes in contact with clothing or animals that transfer ticks is vulnerable to the disease.

According to the California Department of Public Health, an average of 200 cases of Lyme are reported annually in California. Santa Clara County recorded five cases in 2012 and 12 in 2011, the highest number of cases statewide.

“While Lyme disease is a health concern, our local case numbers do not indicate that Lyme disease is more of a health risk here in Santa Clara County than anywhere else,” said Santa Clara County health officer Marty Fenstersheib, who added that the rate of infected ticks is just 1-2 percent locally, compared with 15 percent along the northern coast of California. “But people should always be vigilant in protecting themselves, their children and their pets year-round.”

The Santa Clara County Public Health Department has reported only one case of Lyme this year, but the active tick season (April through September) still has a long way to go.

Difficult to diagnose

O’Rourke experienced many of the symptoms characteristic of Lyme – fatigue, heart palpitation, dizziness and breathing complications. But she never developed the signature Bullseye Skin Rash that frequently develops within one month of a bite.

Through advocacy on behalf of the Bay Area Lyme Foundation – an organization she helped found to close the gap between research and clinical practice – O’Rourke discovered that only 14 percent of Lyme patients in California develop a rash at the onset of the disease, complicating diagnosis. As the disease often presents with flulike symptoms, she said, some patients and doctors confuse it with other illnesses or incorrectly assume that Lyme isn’t a problem in the state.

“You could go to 16 doctors and diagnosis is still a matter of luck,” O’Rourke said.

Cutting it off at the source

Before her son fell ill with Lyme, O’Rourke had never even seen a blacklegged tick, the species that carries the disease to mammals like deer, rodents and pets. When her family moved to Woodside – prior to living in Los Altos – their puppy picked up ticks from the grassy areas of the property and brought them into their home.

That led to her removing a dangling tick from her son’s stomach.

“I did everything I wasn’t supposed to do,” she said.

Avoiding the outdoors altogether is unrealistic, but there are ways to prevent tick bites and deter infection if bitten. When outdoors, Fenstersheib advises people to apply a tick repellent containing at least 20 percent DEET and soak clothing, shoes and gear in a Permethrin-based substance.

“People should avoid direct contact with ticks, such as wooded and bushy areas with high grass and/or leaves,” Feinstersheib said. “Instead, they should walk in the center of trails.”

Conducting a full-body tick-check after time outside and showering and washing clothes in hot water are also advisable, he cautioned.

To remove a tick, do not follow the instinct to pull it off hastily – use tweezers to grasp it by the mouth and pull directly up.

Quick removal can prevent infection and preserve the bug alive for testing.

“If you find a tick, put it in an envelope or jar and bring it to Vector Control,” said Dr. Carol Kemper, MD, FACP of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation.

The center will perform a molecular test to determine if the specimen carries Lyme.

For O’Rourke and other Lyme patients, returning to outdoor activities can be difficult.

“I used to be afraid of going outside,” O’Rourke said. “Now, I’m not ... but I wouldn’t sit under an oak tree.”

For more information on Lyme disease, visit cdc.gov/lyme or bayarealyme.org.

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