Living with Lyme – what is Lyme?

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SARASOTA – The CDC estimates more than 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported annually. That’s 1.5 times the number of women diagnosed with breast cancer, and six times the number of people diagnosed with HIV, but what is it?

Spread through ticks, Lyme is caused by a spirochete – a corkscrew-shaped bacterium called borrelia burgdorferi that burrows into your cells, and forms a bio-film around it, making it hard for antibiotics to attack.

“There’s a whole list of symptoms for neuropathic disorders that are caused by it, hallucinations, paralysis, cephalitis, all these other things that can come about from it,” says Medical Entomologist Matt Smith. He’s been studying ticks for years and says they’re dirty. “They transmit a ton of diseases,” he says.

The CDC reports some of the co-infections ticks carry are ehrlichiosis, bartonella, babesia, and anaplasma.

Each co-infection can affect a different organ, whether it’s the brain and nervous system, muscles and joints, or even the heart.

Medical Advisor, Carol Fisch says when people get infected with more than one, it complicates the treatment. “One antibiotic that might go after one of these infections will not be what is used for say babesia,” says Fisch.

Emergency Medicine Physician Albert Avila says it’s often missed. “Early on the symptoms are very elusive they’re very vague, they’re not really clear cut and the testing is very complicated, we’re not testing for the organism itself, we’re testing for the antibodies against the organism,” he explains.

“There’s usually 30-something thousand causes reported, but the estimates are that there’s about 300,000 human infections in America every year,” says Smith.

Fisch says a common misconception is that chronic Lyme can be cured. “I won’t ever use the word cure,” she says. “I’ll say that a lot of people have been able to basically treat and go on with their life and not have any further symptoms until maybe later on in life when a stressor comes along.”

A Lyme diagnosis is a life of stress management and monitoring symptoms. So how can we protect ourselves?

“Wear repellent, cover your skin, and check your body thoroughly after you’ve been in the woods,” recommends Smith.

If you find a tick, remove it, and see your doctor right away.

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Nicole Sommavilla
Multimedia journalist Nicole Sommavilla is a recent graduate from Ithaca College. Nicole was born and raised in Westchester, New York before she made the move to Florida. Being new to area, she loves meeting people and exploring the Suncoast. In her free time Nicole enjoys working out, being with her friends and family, and exploring the natural lands that surround her. Nicole has always loved writing and storytelling, which is how she discovered her passion for news. If you have a story idea or a news tip, feel free to email her at nicole.sommavilla@snntv.com. You can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook for updates!