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Lyme Disease discussed in President’s Lecture Series

By Staff | Nov 23, 2018

SHEPHERDSTOWN — According to the Center for Disease Control, 30,000 cases of Lyme Disease are reported every year in the United States. The likelihood of of catching Lyme Disease is increased for people living in certain states, including Maine, Maryland, Connecticut, Virginia and West Virginia.

During Shepherd University’s President’s Lecture Series on Nov. 12, Dr. Roberta Lynn DeBiasi, chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Children’s National Health System, discussed the cause and treatment of Lyme Disease, and what can happen if it is left untreated.

“Lyme Disease has really increased over the years — 96 percent of these cases occur in 14 states, and most of these cases occur in June or July. Up to one-third of these cases occur in children, because they are the people who are most likely to be playing outside,” DeBiasi said, mentioning the cases tend to happen on the hottest days of the year.

According to DeBiasi, Lyme Disease is a bacterial infection spread to humans and mammals through the bite of a deer tick. The first sign of a tick bite infected with the disease is often a bull’s eye or circle of redness on the skin surrounding the bite location. If detected while still in this phase, Lyme Disease can be prevented from spreading to the victim, by carefully removing the tick’s entire body with tweezers. DeBiasi recommended grabbing onto the tick’s body, and slowly pulling directly up and away from the skin, so the tick’s head will be removed with the rest of its body.

“Stage one is a very characteristic rash and easy to see. It’s large, but it may or may not have that classic bull’s eye rash. But not everyone sees that rash only about 70 percent,” DeBiasi said.

If not detected in stage one, the bacterial infection will then spread to the victim’s blood stream. The victim will start to experience joint stiffness, dry cough, sore throat fatigue, severe headaches and muscle pains in stage two.

“With this, it is in its middle phase — they are all treatable symptoms,” DeBiasi said, mentioning the blood test for Lyme Disease is only positive in 10-25 percent of those in stage one, but by stage two, it should be able to recognize the bacterial infection.

If the tick is completely removed in stage one, no medical testing or treatment for the bite is required. DeBiasi said there are two types of Lyme Disease tests, and both should be conducted in the stages after stage one, before the medical practitioner determines the victim is infected with the disease.

While stages one and two can be treated, if the victim remains untreated for a month or more, the victim will experience the final stage of Lyme Disease. Stage three includes more serious versions of stage two’s symptoms, but can also include arthritis, resulting from fluid created by the infection in the victim’s joints. These symptoms may be able to be treated, but in some cases, even if the infection is treated, the victim will experience returning symptoms of the disease, or have to undergo surgery to remove the fluid build-up or have their joints replaced.

Because of the serious nature of Lyme Disease, DeBiasi believes FDA-approved, Western traditional medical treatment is the best way to identify and treat Lyme Disease. Prior to being tested for Lyme Disease, patients should know what form of treatment their medical provider offers.

Before seeking alternative medicine help for Lyme Disease, DeBiasi said people should “exhaust academic opinions” and should seek a second opinion, if their doctor won’t answer their questions about their infection or treatment, and if the treatment is ineffective.

Although Lyme Disease should be something local residents are aware can be contracted outside, DeBiasi said the negative effects of not being involved in outside activities outweigh the danger of Lyme Disease.

“It is much healthier to go outside and play, despite the ticks,” DeBiasi said. “To decrease the likelihood of ticks, control the vegetation around your home, and avoid highly overgrown areas.”