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Preventing Lyme disease

Living the Country Life Radio Program with Betsy Freese

Serious health threat

Listen to the radio story mp3

Radio interview source: Pat Smith, president, Lyme Disease Association, Inc.

I grew up in Maryland and I've seen a lot of ticks. One time my friend Tona and I walked through ditches picking up bottles to return for nickels. When we were through, I had 23 ticks on me. I had more ticks than bottles!

Unfortunately, ticks are expanding across the country. This results in an increase in Lyme disease, a bacterial infection transmitted by deer ticks. The disease is most predominant in the Northeast, but has been found in every state in the U.S., even Alaska and Hawaii.

Pat Smith is president of the Lyme Disease Association and says if you're bitten by a tick and contract the disease, the symptoms vary, from a bull's-eye-like rash at the bite spot, to a general rash, or no rash at all. You might feel like you're getting the flu with muscle aches, fatigue, fever and headaches.

"The thinking is now among physicians who treat Lyme patients is if you catch it within a few weeks of the bite, and it's treated appropriately, then probably the person will fully recover, Smith says. "But if it is not diagnosed early and not treated appropriately, you will develop what they call chronic Lyme disease." This means symptoms will keep reoccurring.

If a pregnant woman is bitten, she should get medical attention immediately, because the disease can cross through the placenta and cause birth defects.

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