A new perspective on Lyme
I have been watching a close friend being treated for Lyme disease. She has been terribly sick.
I thought I knew all about the malady after reading so much and reporting on it frequently in recent years. Turns out there is much I did not realize.
Truly, Lyme seems to be different for everyone who contracts it. The disease is called the “great imitator” because, especially in its later stages if left untreated or treated inadequately, mimics other nasty diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome or an array of mental disorders.
Among my circle of friends, seems like all have had frequent contacts with the deer ticks that spread Lyme, more than a few have been treated for the disease, and we all know unfortunate souls who have suffered greatly from its effects.
Recently, Dr. Paul Meade, of the Centers for Disease Control, called Lyme disease an epidemic. Certainly that is true in Pennsylvania, which has more cases than any other state.
Approximately 30,000 people nationally contract the disease annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control. About 96 percent of those cases were in 13 states in 2011. Pennsylvania had the most cases, with almost 5,000.
In the commonwealth, the majority of the Lyme disease cases originate in the southeastern counties surrounding Philadelphia. Additionally, residents in the counties of Butler, Cameron, Clearfield, Elk, McKean, Monroe and Pike are also at higher risk.
Some things abut Lyme I learned recently you might not know:
- That bull's eye rash you have heard so much about, that appears around the bites of ticks that carry Lyme disease … Truth is, according to the CDC, only a third of infected people develop a rash or a bull's eye rash.
- Quite a few folks I have heard about really suffering from Lyme never even new they had a tick bite and discovered they had the disease months later.
- There is no human Lyme disease vaccine. A drug called LYMErix™ made by SmithKline Beecham Pharmaceuticals was licensed in 1998; in 2002, it was taken off the market.
- Even if you do get bitten by an infected tick, it has to remain attached to you for 36 to 48 hours to spread the disease. “It’s not like if you don’t get the tick out right away all is lost,” Phillip Baker, executive director of the American Lyme Disease Foundation, told a news reporter recently.
If caught in its early stages, the disease is easily combated with oral antibiotics, he pointed out.
Early symptoms of Lyme disease include fevers, chills, headaches, stiff neck, sore throat, muscle aches, fatigue, swollen glands and joint pain. They may appear from four hours to several weeks after an infected tick bite.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, you should take precautions outdoors. Apply repellents with DEET to your skin when going outside. And spray products containing permethrin on your clothes. Wear long sleeves and pants. Do a full-body check to look for ticks after a day afield.
I have to admit, I didn’t take Lyme disease seriously. But after seeing it up close, I do now. You should, too.