Vol. 9, No. 22
May 31-June 6, 2001
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Confirmed Lyme Cases Decreased in 2000 — But Beware
By Cheryl Emery

Confirmed Lyme cases: Anne Arundel County: down 27 percent; Calvert County: down 50 percent; Maryland: down 24 percent.

These reports are misleading. Please don't be fooled.

Two years ago, I experienced extreme fatigue, tingling in my hands and memory problems. I then developed a rash on the back of my knee, which was professionally treated as a skin infection. The rash slowly cleared up, but other symptoms became more pronounced.

Lesson 1: The first symptoms may be a flu-like condition, with fever, chills, headache, stiff neck, achiness and fatigue.

One morning, my face began to tingle. Soon paralysis set in, and I was taken to the emergency room. I was diagnosed with Bell's Palsy.

Lesson 2: There isn't a 100 percent accurate lab test for Lyme. You may test false negative or false positive.

Shortly thereafter, I was diagnosed with Lyme meningitis (meningitis in this case means the inflammation of the membranes surrounding the spinal column and brain.). I was placed on a 28-day regimen of intravenous antibiotics.

Lesson 3: Usual treatment is with antibiotics.

During the past two years, I have experienced aches and pains, fatigue, memory struggles, colds, ear infections, hoarseness, poor balance, sleeping problems, face/eye twitches, sluggish thinking, lower concentration level, moods, neck stiffness/cracking, eyesight problems and weight gain.

Lesson 4: Weeks or months after an untreated bite you may experience any of these symptoms and more.

I have continued to run a temperature of 97 to 100.1. I have had 31 doctors' office visits, one urgent care visit and one emergency room visit. I have had two spinal taps, one EKG, two MRI brain scans and more than 75 lab tests. I have also taken more than 35 different drugs of varying strengths.

Lesson 5: There is no test to determine how long you may have had the disease or if it continues to be active.

The pain of Lyme disease, the difficulty of diagnosis and the persistence of symptoms make prevention - though difficult - a far better route than cure. Here are some facts to help keep your family safe:

  • Chesapeake Country is at high risk for Lyme disease.

  • Deer ticks are the "primary carrier" for Lyme. 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. Not all deer ticks carry the Lyme bacteria.

  • Deer tick season here is April through November.

  • 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 unfortunately bring them in.

  • Apply insect repellent containing DEET (n,n-diethyl-m-toluamide) to exposed skin and clothes when venturing outside.

  • Check daily for deer ticks and remove them promptly. If an infected tick is properly removed within 24 hours, you are likely to remain uninfected.

  • To remove an embedded deer tick, grasp the tick firmly and as close to the skin as possible using fine-tipped tweezers. Do not use your fingers. With a steady motion, pull the tick away from the skin. The tick's mouthparts may remain in the skin, but do not be alarmed. The bacteria that causes Lyme are contained in the tick's midgut. This is why you must not squeeze the tick's tiny midsection.

  • Cleanse the area with an antiseptic. Circle the bite area and watch for any signs of infection, rash or ring. Seek medical attention as needed.

  • Not everyone gets the tell-tale bull's eye ring around the bite.

  • If caught early and treated with antibiotics, Lyme disease is curable.

Check yourself, your children, your family and your pets for ticks. Seek Lyme-educated medical attention immediately if symptoms begin. Every lost day can add to the long-term ramifications of this disease.

Emery, of Calvert County, writes each year of the danger of Lyme disease. Reach her at [email protected].

Copyright 2001
Bay Weekly