NEW YORK (CBSNewYork)Lyme disease is epidemic in the U.S. with as many as 400,000 cases a year, and this is prime outdoor season – when many people are likely to get bitten by a tick.

CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez has just been diagnosed with Lyme disease himself.

In the Northeast, where Lyme-infected ticks are endemic, you are going to get bitten by a tick sooner or later unless you live in a bubble. There is just no foolproof way to avoid getting a tick bite, and if you do get bitten, you may get Lyme.

Dr. Gomez spends a lot of time outdoors – hiking, biking and playing golf, sometimes in the rough.

He takes precautions such as wearing long pants, spraying DEET insect repellent, and checking for ticks – but somehow, at least one tick bit him recently.

So for the past few weeks, and maybe a couple of months, he has had a dull headache on and off, and especially a lot of fatigue, stiffness and achy joints.

Putting all those symptoms together, he started to suspect Lyme. He asked his doctor for a blood test this week, and less than 24 hours later, Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum of Northwell Health Lenox Hill Hospital pointed out the test results.

“In your situation, the ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) was grossly positive and abnormal. Btu the western blot was equivocal, and it becomes very important to combine your clinical symptoms — how you feel — with these blood tests in order to make the diagnosis,” Steinbaum said.

Right away, Gomez started on the standard antibiotic treatment, doxycycline, for 14 to 21 days.

“The studies generally show 90 percent of patients do very well with that, and maybe 10 percent six months later are still struggling with some symptoms,” Gomez said. “But the vast majority of patients do very well. They don’t get better right away, though, so it takes a while for the full benefits to be seen.”

Fallon also said the sooner you start antibiotics, the more effective they are. But that is the problem – unless you see a tick bite or a rash, you may not suspect Lyme and go undiagnosed for a long time because the symptoms are a lot like the flu or a bad cold.

Gomez said he did not see a tick or a rash himself. Many people never see a tick, and as many as half of all Lyme patients either never get a rash – bullseye or otherwise – or get it in a spot they don’t see.

For that reason, Dr. Fallon said if you spend an time outdoors and have symptoms such as fatigue and achiness, get a blood test.

Gomez also warned that you can get Lyme disease more than once – it is a bacterial infection rather than a virus like mononucleosis or chickenpox. He will still have to spray himself and really check for ticks.

Comments (6)
  1. Dr Fallon knows doxycycline does not kill the VERY COMMON tick-borne co-infections babesia and bartonella. Co-infections are #1 reason why patients remain sick and many with worsening symptoms from untreated co’s. I run a Lyme Community page on FB, (Lyme Expressions and Fellowship or LEAF) where 100% of our patient story writers all have these co-infections. I was initially treated for 5 months with doxycycline and began to feel better, but as soon as I went off the treatment symptoms came rushing back. It took 4 years to be diagnosed with babesia, bartonella, Q-Fever and ehrlichia. Once I began treatment on the co-infections I got much better. I will always deal with symptoms on various levels but I will also never be as sick as I was when I had Babesiosis.

  2. Thanks for spreading awareness of the burgeoning epidemic of lyme and co infections. Unfortunately, doxycycline will not work on many of the co infections and quite a few co infections can segue into chronic ones. ILADS has a listing of 700 articles proving chronicity of Borrelia, Coxiella burnetti, Mycoplasmas, Chlamydias, and many other infecting agents from tick vectors can be chronic. We know that many pathogens pass immediately from the mid gut of the tick to humans and Powassan virus, and Borrelia miyamotoi are in that category. I have found Borrelia hermsii, Bartonella, Babesia, Ehrlichia, Anaplasma, Rocky Mountain Spotted fever, Tick borne typhus, Tularemia, Brucella antibodies, Mycoplasmas, Chlamydias, in people just here in Florida. There are so many viruses in ticks and we need to be isolating those as well. Worms and parasites and fungal issues are present too. In Poland, mosquitoes are carrying BR 91, a borrelia spreading there. Once these pathogens paralyze the immune system, we see CVID and the person is not building antibodies. CVID is common variable immune deficiency.

    1. No one will remain well with a short course of antibiotics and with pregnancy, aging of the immune system, operations, stress or car accidents we see the re emergence of many pathogens. We get most of the opportunistic infections of AIDS patients. We demand research from our governments to fix this deadly problem. Too much money is being wasted on research that is not as crucial to our world population.

      1. Certain cancers show up with the immune compromisaton that occurs with these pathogens and of course that is being ignored or covered up as well.

  3. While, this article seems to be an attempt to address Lyme disease treatment issues, statements made by Drs. Fallon and Gomez seem to imply that if you just wait long enough, patients treated for Lyme disease with 14 to 21 days of doxycycline will get better. According to the SLICE studies of John Aucott, when measured at 6-months post-treatment, only 60% of patients treated for early Lyme disease returned to their pre-treatment status. 11% of patients not only had symptoms of fatigue, widespread musculoskeletal pain, and/or cognitive complaints, but their ongoing symptoms significantly impacted their daily life functioning. Given these poor outcomes, how can 14 to 21 days of doxycycline be considered to be good medical care. These patients need more follow-up evaluation and treatment. More studies are needed to get to the bottom of what is ailing these patients, yet there haven’t been any federally-funded treatment studies for over ten years.

    There is also no mention of tick-borne coinfections, which can worsen illness, complicate treatment, and in cases of chronic Lyme disease, tend to be the rule not the exception.

  4. If he was not in the acute stage of the disease and treated within the first few weeks, this man needs much longer treatment or the disease will turn chronic. It can affect the heart the brain the CNS all joint organs and functions in the body. Please get to a LYME knowledgeable doctor you do not want to play with your life. Don’t assume the infection is gone just because you feel better and your immune system is keeping it at bay. Soon it could turn auto immune or drop you dead of a heart attack. If you have Lyme disease you may also be infected with other diseaes carried by ticks some of which are like Malaria. ilads.org or find me on Facebook.

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