Local News

Ticks Carry Hard-To-Diagnose Lyme Disease

Posted June 19, 2002

— State health experts expect to see a rise in the tick population this year. Ticks carry and spread Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

Lyme disease

is an illness that can result in skin, joint, heart, and nervous system prob- lems. It affects people of all ages and may last months or years if not treated correctly.

The disease is dangerous and difficult to diagnose.

"The ramifications can be extremely devastating and debilitating," said Dr. Beth Jordan, a Raleigh veterinarian.

Jordan has Lyme disease and is reaching out to others with it.

Lyme disease is carried by the brown dog tick and the lone star tick.

"If you have had a known tick bite and develop flu-like symptoms after the known tick bite, you need to see a doctor as soon as possible," she said.

According to Jordan, the disease is greatly under-reported and there are no positive tests to prove a person has it.

"It's extremely frustrating. I can't even count the number of calls I've had from people just begging me to help them and point them toward a physician who will help them," she said.

Jordan has started the North Carolina Lyme Disease Support Group for Lyme disease patients -- many of who have gone for years not knowing just what it is they have.

"They get to a very, very desperate point. It's extremely frustrating," she said.

If not diagnosed and treated, Lyme disease becomes chronic, attacking a host of internal organs and showing the symptoms of other diseases.

"The chronic form can last weeks to months to years to the rest of your life," Jordan said.

Jordan said the disease can mimic chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, lupus and multiple sclerosis.

The disease carried by ticks can be prevented if they are removed from the skin quickly and properly:

  • Remove a tick it by grabbing it close to the skin.
  • Pull the tick straight out and slowly until it lets go.
  • Because ticks use hooks in their mouth, the mouth may stay in the skin after the tick is removed. The mouth parts can be removed with a sterile needle or tweezers.
  • The best way to prevent Lyme disease is to avoid tick bites. When outdoors in tick-infected areas, wear long-sleeved shirts and long-legged pants. Wear light-colored clothing so that ticks can be spotted more easily and removed before becoming attached.

    Around the home, tick problems usually result from pets. Control ticks on pets by using a pest collar and a suitable shampoo, dip, or dust.

    Pets confined to the backyard will not pick up as many ticks as those that roam.

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