From: The Daily Vidette - Illinois State University's Student Newspaper Since 1888
Wednesday, January 23, 2002

Lyme disease cases rapidly increasing

By: Eric Landschoot
Daily Vidette Staff

Most people are probably not familiar with lyme disease, but the disease is drastically on the rise in the United States.

The number of new cases of lyme disease has doubled in the United States since 1991. About 95 percent of new cases in 2000 were reported by 12 states in the northeastern, mid-Atlantic and north-central U.S., including Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, New York and Delaware.

Lyme disease is a bacterial disease transmitted from deer to humans via deer ticks, Kathleen Davis, communication specialist with the McLean County Health Department, said. Symptoms can appear at different times depending on the person, Davis said. However, most symptoms arise within three to 30 days of the initial tick bite. The first of which is a red rash that can be warm to the touch, she added.

"The antibiotics prescribed are chosen by a physician depending on how long the symptoms have been showing and how difficult the particular situation is to control," Davis explained.

If the disease is left untreated, a variety of other health problems can result. Headaches, swollen lymph nodes, joint and muscle pains, fatigue, chills and a fever can show up during the later and more serious stages of the disease, Davis continued. The dangerous thing about lyme disease is that it can be mistaken for some much more common and less serious illnesses like the flu, she said adding, later symptoms prove much more dangerous. Lyme disease can even progress to such serious afflictions as blindness, memory loss, pain, numbness in the arms and legs and even arthritis if antibiotics are not taken in time, Davis said.

Dr. John Krueger of BroMenn Medical Center said extreme cases of the disease could even progress to neurological complications if left untreated for too long.

The number of cases since 1991 have doubled because people now know what Lyme Disease is and are reporting it, Davis said. She said because it is so similar to the flu, many people do not bother going to a doctor. Awareness of the disease and the importance of regular doctor visits have changed that she said. "People are more well aware of the symptoms and they are visiting their physicians far more frequently," Davis said.

Krueger had his own opinion of why more cases of lyme disease are being identified. "Blood tests and lab support is so much better now than it was ten years ago," Krueger noted. "Along with this heightened awareness, we have finally put together the details and have a syndrome format we can actually recognize," Krueger said.

"The best way to protect yourself from this disease is to wear protective clothing when in wooded areas, and places where tall grass is present," Davis said. According to Davis, long pants and long-sleeved shirts would be sufficient, as well as insect repellent and some sort of head covering. Also, she said sticking to marked or well-traveled trails and checking for ticks every couple of hours would be a wise practice to undertake when venturing in the outdoors.

A tick bite can be a tricky thing, and the tick should be removed as soon as possible. The best way to go about doing this is to pull the tick out of the skin with a pair of tweezers. Pull the tick straight out so that no part of the tick is left beneath the surface of the skin, Davis said. Then wipe the area and surrounding areas clean with an anti-bacterial cleanser or soap.

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