LYME DISEASE: CDC ups national estimates tenfold - KMSP-TV

LYME DISEASE: CDC ups national estimates tenfold

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ARDEN HILLS, Minn. (KMSP) -

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention upped national estimates of Lyme disease diagnoses from 30,000 patients a year to 300,000, and there are several factors behind the tenfold spike.

Minnesota and Wisconsin are hotbeds for the tick-borne illness, but across the country, underreporting confirmed cases to the CDC remains a problem and there is also growing concern about diagnosis.

"The first symptom was: I leaned over and I was dizzy," recalled Pam Freking, a Lyme disease patient. "I felt weak."

Freking remembers the exact moment -- 5 years ago on Memorial Day weekend -- when Lyme disease reared in her life.

"It's hard not to talk about it emotionally because it takes you to a dark place," she told FOX 9 News.

After visiting Wisconsin to plant flowers for her mother, Freking started to fall ill -- but she never got the telltale bulls eye rash that is the hallmark of Lyme.

"Relentless head pain, like people standing on my head," Freking remembered.

It took doctors a while to diagnose the tick-borne disease, but the Arden Hills mother of two has been documenting the medical fallout with 3-ring binders ever since.

"From the minute the first symptom showed up, I was done," she said.

Freking hopes the stunning new estimates from the CDC will put the spotlight on Lyme disease, particularly on diagnostic awareness and prevention.

"It really is a wake-up call for us," said Jeff Bender, a professor at the University of Minnesota's school of Veterinary Medicine and Public Health who studies how Lyme disease is passed to humans from black-legged ticks. "We need to be thinking how to be more aware of it, diagnose it, encourage prevention."

According to the CDC, just 13 states account for 96 percent of Lyme disease cases. While antibiotics are usually enough to treat people who are infected, Freking hopes everyone understands how serious the disease can be -- especially if left untreated.

"I feel like knowledge is so powerful," she said. "Once diagnosed, you have a really hard road -- not the end, but at least you know."

LYME DISEASE IN MINNESOTA

The black-legged tick dines on deer to help it thrive, but that doesn't mean deer need to live in an area where ticks can be found.

"When the female tick lays her eggs on the forest floor, she'll lay1-3,000 eggs all in the same spot," said Dave Neitzel, with the Minnesota Department of Health.

The ticks are born without disease, but the young ones get infected by feeding on mice and other small animals which can carry the harmful bacteria. Chipmunks and squirrels often seen scurrying around Minnesota properties may be carrying ticks too.

Humans need to make physical contact with a tick in order to get bitten, and checking for them is an important part of prevention. Even after a bite, a tick must remain attached for at least one day to inject the disease into a person.

Other tips:

  • Avoid brush if you are not wearing a repellant that's up to 30 percent DEET.
  • If you have a bird feeder, keep it away from the house. Seeds attract rodents, which can carry ticks.
  • Keep lawns near wooded areas mowed short
  • Keep brush away from your home.
  • Stay to the center of trails when walking in wooded areas


Online Resource:

- Minnesota Department of Health: Preventing Tick-borne Disease
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Lyme Disease

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