Beating the tick

Many years after being diagnosed with Lyme Disease, Larry Reese continues to struggle with the medical condition.

Over the years, he’s taken antibiotics to treat it, but from time to time he still suffers any number of symptoms.

“Right now, I take them twice a day. I had been off of them through the years,” he said.

Reese, 57, of Delaware Township, Northumberland County, once was a competitive weight lifter, but blames Lyme Disease for ravaging his body.

He’s had seven knee surgeries and two hip replacements and has endured fatigue, pain, night sweats, lapses in memory.

Like many people, Reese feels he had a difficult time being properly diagnosed for Lyme Disease.

Doctors he consulted gave him a variety of diagnoses – from fibromyalgia to a fatigue disorder.

He was happy to finally receive the medical help he needed at a time when many people suffered through symptoms and were being misdiagnosed.

Reese now leads a support group that helps people struggling with Lyme Disease.

“There’s definitely a lot of people struggling, and in many cases, insurance isn’t addressing it and their doctors aren’t addressing it,” he said. “There are still doctors that will tell you that it’s not an issue.”

Overall, Reese feels the medical community is at least doing a little better job than it did five to 10 years ago in diagnosing and treating the disease.

Lyme Disease is an infection commonly contracted from a deer tick bite. It is caused by a spirochete, a type of bacterium. Ticks become infected with the Lyme Disease spirochete by feeding on the blood of animals with the disease.

It also can be transmitted through breastfeeding and blood transfusions. The symptoms mimic many other medical conditions.

This year, the tick population appears to be high, which brings the potential for increased numbers of Lyme Disease cases.

“It looks like things are taking off,” said Dr. Michael Ryan, pediatric infectious disease specialist at Geisinger Medical Center. “We are not sure why it’s (tick population) up.”

Last year, Ryan noted, was a terrible year for ticks, but he’s hopeful it won’t be as bad in 2014.

In 2013, more than 500 children alone were diagnosed at Geisinger for Lyme Disease, he said.

Lyme Disease is rarely fatal and prompt treatment can help people avoid many of the symptoms it brings.

Infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system.

The best way to avoid Lyme Disease, of course, is not to get a tick bite.

“If you are bitten by a tick, remove the tick as best you can,” Ryan said. “Then, observe that site. As long as you don’t get a bulls-eye look at the site, you won’t get Lyme Disease.”

Those who develop the bull-eye rash, are advised to contact their physician.

Ryan said antibiotics can successfully treat Lyme Disease.

“In children, it’s a very curable disease,” he said.

Ryan feels the medical community is doing a better job of recognizing and treating Lyme Disease than in the past.

“Fifteen years ago, I would have said we have very little Lyme Disease in the area,” he said. “Now, it’s everywhere. I think doctors now in this area are used to it.”

Reese agreed the tick population appears to be heavy this year and advises people who spend time outside to take proper precautions.

“Check your kids (for ticks) if they are out playing,” he said.

Pets that spend time outside need to be checked as well as they often bring ticks into homes.

Reese, who’s been bitten by ticks on a number of occasions, tells people to apply proper anti-tick spray to their clothing such as permethrin.

“We really need to take this seriously,” Reese said. “We just have to help each other.”