NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Experts say we may be in for the worst Lyme disease season ever. A population explosion of the white-footed mice that play host to Lyme-carrying ticks is the reason.
The good news is that Lyme is very treatable if it’s caught early.
As CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reports, prevention is always better than treatment. For Lyme, that means using insect repellant and wearing long pants tucked into your socks.
Even then, you might still get bitten by an infected tick.
You wouldn’t think the tiny critter could cause so much trouble, but if you get bitten by one carrying the Lyme bacterium you could become one of the more than 300,000 people in the United States who get Lyme disease each year.
“I have a crushing headache, a crushing neckache, never had symptoms before. I take a shower and I see a bullseye,” Lyme sufferer Dana Parish said.
Dana displayed a couple of classic symptoms, especially the bullseye rash.
Other symptoms are flu-like, such as a low-grade fever and fatigue.
If you have these signs, especially if you find a tick on your body, it’s important to see a doctor right away because a seven to ten day course of antibiotic works best when started early.
“The most commonly used one is still doxycycline, which is form the tetracycline class,” Dr. Alan Taege from the Cleveland Clinic said. “Very effective, very simple, and general quite easy to take.”
But early treatment isn’t always started because the rash isn’t always present and the other symptoms can feel like a summer cold. That’s when Lyme can become a chronic infection with lasting effects.
“Hard to get up a flight of stairs,” Lyme sufferer Jennifer Crystal said. “I couldn’t empty the dishwasher, I mean basic tasks.”
Dr. Taege says chronic Lyme can lead to lasting side effects.
“You can end up with things like a Bell’s palsy where you have partial paralysis of a facial muscle because of the involvement of the facial nerve,” he said. “You can develop an arthritis. There may be some forms where people have some impairment of concentration.”
Those later Lyme stages are also treated with antibiotics but it can take a much longer and more intense course of medication. Even then, post-lyme syndrome can cause fatigue for months, and can be very frustrating because they can linger.
And while Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in the United States, ticks can carry a number of other dangerous diseases — some of which can even be fatal.
In any case, it’s important to take tick bites seriously.