Vol. 10, No. 27

July 4-10, 2002

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Lyme Disease: You’re Better Off Without It
by Cheryl Emery

One morning, three years ago, my face began to tingle. Soon paralysis set in and I was taken to the emergency room. I was diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy due to Lyme Meningitis. (Meningitis in this case means the inflammation of the membranes surrounding the spinal column and brain.) I was then placed on a 28-day regimen of intravenous antibiotics. I continue to take 17 pills a day, as there is permanent brain damage from the Lyme disease.

So it’s a particular worry to me that confirmed cases of Lyme Disease in Calvert County increased in 2001, while Anne Arundel County has one of the highest number of confirmed cases of Lyme Disease in Maryland.

Over 600 cases of Lyme disease were reported in Maryland in 2001. Thus Chesapeake Country is at high-risk for Lyme disease. But many cases of Lyme disease go unreported, Maryland health department officials believe. Many doctors are now treating possible cases of Lyme more aggressively with antibiotics as a precautionary measure. These “possible” cases of Lyme disease — even though they may be actual cases — do not require reporting. Thus education and awareness continue to be your best protection.

Here are a few things you should know:

Deer ticks are the “primary carrier” for lyme disease (birds, squirrels, regular ticks and mice may be secondary carriers.) They are not the same as the larger ticks that are also in our area. Deer ticks are usually no larger than the period at the end of this sentence, so they can be very difficult to see.

Deer tick season is April through November in our area.

Even in season, deer ticks do not jump, hop, fall from the trees or fly. You must brush against them to allow them to make you their host. They like to hide and wait in grasses, low branches and leaves. They can be in fields, woods, yards or even in your home. Your pet may bring them in.

The best precaution is avoidance. When you venture outside, apply an insect repellent containing DEET (n,n-diethyl-m-toluamide) to exposed skin and clothes. When you or people in your care come indoors, check for the tiny ticks. Not all deer ticks carry the Lyme disease bacteria. Even if the deer tick carries the bacteria, if it is properly removed within 24 hours, it will usually prevent you from contracting the disease.

Should you find a tick, remove it by grasping the embedded tick firmly and as close to the skin as possible using fine-tipped tweezers. Do not use your fingers. Do not use petroleum jelly, a hot match, nail polish or other products. With a steady motion, pull the tick away from the skin.
If the tick’s mouthparts remain in the skin, do not be alarmed. The bacteria that causes Lyme disease is contained in the tick’s midgut. Thus you must not squeeze the tick’s tiny midsection as it may vomit the bacteria into the bloodstream.

Cleanse the area with an antiseptic. Circle the bite area and watch for any signs of infection, rash or ring.

Not everyone gets the telltale bull’s eye ring around the bite area, so be alert for other symptoms. The first symptoms may be a flu-like condition, with fever, chills, headache, stiff neck, achiness and fatigue.

Weeks or months after an untreated bite, an infected person may experience pain in joints or muscles, neurological problems, heart problems, vision or hearing problems, low-grade temperature and many other symptoms. You may notice a change in mood, motivation, academic achievement or attitude in both adults and children. Lyme disease can mimic multiple sclerosis, arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, lupus, attention deficit disorder, Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions.

There isn’t a 100 percent accurate lab test for Lyme disease. You may test false negative or false positive. There is no test to determine how long you may have had Lyme disease or if it continues to be active.

Every day that you wait to seek possible treatment may have a lasting lifetime effect. But if caught early and treated with antibiotics, Lyme disease is curable.

Please, please check yourself, your children, your family (especially the elderly) and your pets for ticks. Seek Lyme disease-educated medical attention immediately if symptoms begin. Every day lost can add more seriousness to the long-term ramifications of this disease.

Learn more from the Lyme Disease Foundation (, American Lyme Disease Foundation (, the National Center for Disease Control and Prevention ( and the Lyme Disease Network (
Reach the author at

Copyright 2002
Bay Weekly