Southern Chester County is an epicenter for Lyme epidemic
By Sara L Hudson
"We are living in the epi-center of an epidemic."
That's what Harvey L. Kliman, president of Lyme Disease Association of Southeastern Pennsylvlania told a crowd of concerned Pennsylvanians during lectures by experts on Sunday, June 10, at Garnet Valley High School. According to a post card survey the Lyme Disease Association conducted in Pocopson Township, of the 50 percent who participated, all have or have had someone in their family affected by Lyme disease.
"This disease spares no one." Kliman said, "Twenty percent of the cases in Pocopson infected were school-age children." The oldest infected person in the survey is 102 years in age, the youngest three months, he said. High-risk season for Lyme runs from April to the end of October when ticks are most active, meaning children on summer break playing outside and others at home in their yards and gardens are at the highest risk of infection right now.
Pat Smith, president of the Lyme Disease Association, talked about the disease itself and how scary and hard it is to diagnosis. She said the Lyme disease bacteria, borrelia burgdorferi, can be transmitted within hours of a tick bite.
Keynote speaker Dr. Ann F. Corson, agreed and said within just two hours after a tick bite, borrerlia can be found in the brain, affecting the nervous system and causing debilitating problems such as weakening the immune system and causing chronic illnesses and infections. With symptoms ranging from anxiety and joint stiffness, all the way to facial paralysis and heart palpitations, the disease cannot afford to be taken lightly, she said.
Corson also said Lyme disease is the most prevalent vector borne disease in the United States, and the most prevalent vector-borne bacterial disease in the world.
Since Lyme can affect concentration, memory loss (both short and long term), restless legs, forgetting how to perform a simple task, speech difficulty and confusion, among many, many others, Smith said she wondered how many children diagnosed with attention deficit disorder or attention deficit-hyperactive disorder on drugs such as Ritalin, really just have an undiagnosed case of Lyme. There has been a rise in both ADD or ADHD over the years as Lyme has become more prevalent, Smith said.
The problem, according to Smith, is that the Center for Disease Control refuses to acknowledge Lyme disease as an epidemic or to spend the correct amount of money and time on the issue. The CDC conditions for recognizing a case of Lyme include the EM rash (a classic bull-eye rash) after a tick bite and/or if there is major system involvement such as a cardiac, neurological problems, etc. One must also have a positive test.
"This is where most of the problems come in," Smith said, "The EM rash occurs less than 50 percent of the time when a person is infected with Lyme." People can get other kinds of rashes but the CDC won't recognize them as a sign of Lyme. And the blood work to test for Lyme is only 50 percent accurate, Smith continued.
Corson talked about the social and medical impact of Lyme and associated tick borne diseases. "Lyme is a disease of our brains and nervous systems. It affects who we are, the essence of our selves." The longer a person has Lyme the more infected a person becomes, with the possibility of symptoms becoming permanent even after treatment, she said.
A representative from DEET education program, Ed Tate, was at the lecture to talk about prevention. Tate recommends spraying shoes, socks, pants, sleeves, gloves, and hat with a permethrin deer tick insecticide. Permethrin is a synthetic chemical developed to stimulate the natural chemical pyrethrum that protects plants from insect attacks. One treatment can last two weeks, but do not spray on skin -- clothes only.
On skin, an insect repellent containing DEET can be used, as well as clothing if one does not find a permethrin insecticide. The higher the DEET, the more preventative it is, but many suggest only a DEET of 10 percent for children.
Tate also that that light colored clothing that fits loosely, and a hat to protect your head are also advantageous to protect oneself from Lyme and other tick related infections. He suggested making insect repellent and tick scans of the body part of a family's daily routine.
Corson gave examples of her patients, and how, once they were treated, responded extremely well. One patient was in a mental facility/high school, suffering from manic attacks when Corson treated him with intravenous antibiotics. After one year she said her patient is now happily adjusted and attending a normal public high school. Another of her patients was schedule for brain surgery to stop seizures, but after Corson treated her, she is surgery and seizure-free.
The issue that all experts stressed was that Lyme disease is a serious health issue, affecting the lives of millions, causing pain, suffering and life threatening illness that can be ongoing throughout a persons life -- and that something must be done about it.
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