Lyme disease awareness month - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Lyme disease awareness month

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A small deer tick infected with a particular bacterium can make life miserable for humans.

An infected tick passes on Lyme disease with its bite. Lyme disease can be debilitating with swollen joints severe headaches and excessive fatigue.

The disease is more common in the northeast.  In 2011, the state of Connecticut reported 2000 cases. Alabama had 15.

The problem often starts with getting a correct diagnosis.

21-year-old Carrye Hodges was diagnosed with Lyme disease two years ago.
Hodges, a nursing student at the University of Alabama, had to take a year off to undergo treatment in New York.

She describes the challenges of living with Lyme disease.

"Sometimes I just get so tired and so weak. I will sleep for days. I get so weak that I have trouble breathing," says Hodges. "I would feel lot of pain, and fatigue, passing out. Just a myriad of issues."

Heather Brock is a teacher at Pizitz Middle School. She was diagnosed with Lyme disease in March and has taken a leave of absence.

Since her diagnosis, Brock's students have created Facebook and Instagram pages in support of their teacher and others dealing with Lyme disease.

"Hopefully we can raise some awareness, and particularly about the state of (Lyme disease) testing," says Brock.

Libby Matthew's daughter Laura was bitten by three deer ticks in Alabama when she was six-years-old. She's now 18.

The family sought treatment in Tennessee, the closest place they could find a Lyme disease specialist.

Matthews is concerned with what she says is a lack of testing for the disease in Alabama.

"We saw about seven physicians when Laura was growing up. I would bring it to their attention. I would say, 'can't we just test her for Lyme disease'? I've heard this could be related. And they would say, no, Lyme disease is not in Alabama," says Matthews.

Dr. Rebecca Byrd, an internist at Trinity Medical Center acknowledges it can be difficult to diagnose Lyme disease, since many symptoms can be attributed to other conditions.

"There's really no medical evidence that Lyme disease is directly related to chronic fatigue and those problems. A lot of times that's what these people are trying to deal with is chronic fatigue syndrome. Most of those people are grasping at straws on how to get better," says Byrd.

Byrd says they are seeing more cases of Lyme disease in Alabama, but still far fewer than in the northeast. She recommends, "If they see that 'bulls eye rash', after a tick bite, even if they don't have a known tick bite, they need to go to their doctor. Most doctors look at that rash, would treat for presumed Lyme disease, would give them 14 days antibiotics. Those antibiotics early on can prevent all those other problems people deal with."

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