LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 6, 2016) — Excerpts from University of Kentucky Assistant Professor of Sociology Mairead Moloney’s personal account of her horrifyingly prolonged battle with Lyme disease were printed in Tuesday’s Washington Post, in an article titled “I took all the right meds for Lyme, so why didn’t I get better?”
“In full candor, writing about and publicly sharing this experience was very difficult for me,” Moloney said. “However, I am really grateful that it has received such widespread attention. It is my sincere hope that this piece moves the dialogue forward on what constitutes appropriate care for tick-borne illness. If even one person is helped by my story then I am happy.”
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection humans contract through the bite of an infected blacklegged or deer tick, which are exceedingly small and difficult to detect. According to an online article by the staff of the Mayo Clinic, “The bacteria enter your skin through the (tick) bite and eventually make their way into your bloodstream. In most cases, to transmit Lyme disease, a deer tick must be attached (to the skin) for 36 to 48 hours. If you find an attached tick looks swollen, it may have fed long enough to transmit bacteria.”
According to the Mayo Clinic site, early signs and symptoms include:
· Rash. From three to 30 days after an infected tick bite, an expanding red area might appear that sometimes clears in the center, forming a bull’s-eye pattern. The rash expands slowly over days and can spread to 12 inches across. It is typically not itchy or painful. Some people develop this rash at more than one place on their bodies.
· Flu-like symptoms. Fever, chills, fatigue, body aches and a headache may accompany the rash.
Later symptoms might appear weeks, even months after the bite. These include:
· Rash. The rash may appear in other areas of your body.
· Joint pain. Bouts of severe joint pain and swelling are especially likely to affect your knees, but the pain can shift from one joint to another.
· Neurological problems. Weeks, months or even years after infection, you might develop inflammation of the membranes surrounding your brain (meningitis), temporary paralysis of one side of your face (Bell's palsy), numbness or weakness in your limbs, and impaired muscle movement.
Less frequently reported symptoms may also occur. It is recommended that if you think you have been bitten and display some of the symptoms, to contact your doctor, even if the symptoms seem to disappear.
According to the Center for Disease Control, Kentucky had 11 confirmed cases of Lyme disease in 2014. Incidence is particularly high in northeastern states, including Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont. For a complete report of all states that you may visit during spring and summer vacation season, visit www.cdc.gov/lyme/stats/tables.html.
Moloney has her own advice for those living in or visiting areas known to have Lyme disease carrying ticks. While Kentucky has a comparatively low incidence rate of 0.2, she said, that is no guarantee you and your family are safe.
“While most ticks won’t make you sick,” Moloney said. “Lyme disease is rapidly on the rise. Between 1991 and 2015, the incidence of Lyme in the United States has doubled. (1) Worse, ticks carry many disease-causing organisms, some of which are difficult to detect and treat.”
Moloney offered the following tips:
· If you — or your pet — go outside, you are at risk. Lyme and related infections are present in all of the continental U.S. Ticks love grassy vegetation and patchy woods (2), and they don’t discriminate between rural and urban areas. In fact, Lyme has been found in ticks in New York City parks. (3)
· Wear tick repellent when you are outdoors. There are chemical and non-chemical varieties on the market. Moloney recommends the strongest formulation with which you feel comfortable.
· Perform daily tick checks, even if you’ve just been gardening or lounging in your yard. Ticks can be as small as poppy seeds, and they love to hide in hard to check areas like armpits, bellybuttons or in your body hair. Remove attached ticks immediately, and use proper technique. (4) www.cdc.gov/ticks/removing_a_tick.html
· If you develop a fever or a rash go to your doctor. (5) You should always err on the side of caution, as most people never see the tick or the rash. Early antibiotic treatment is effective for most people. (6)
1. United States Environmental Protection Agency. “Climate Change Indicators in the United States.” www3.epa.gov/climatechange/science/indicators/health-society/lyme.html
2. National Science Foundation. “Ecology and Infectious Diseases: Lyme Disease on the Rise.” www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/ecoinf/lyme.jsp
3. The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. “Healthy Environment: Ticks.” www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/environmental/ticks.shtml
4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Prevent Lyme Disease." www.cdc.gov/features/lymedisease/
5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Symptoms of Tickborne Illness.”
6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Treatment.” www.cdc.gov/lyme/treatment/
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