May was Lyme
Disease Awareness Month, but the ticks that carry the bacterium causing Lyme
will be active in forests, fields, and maybe even folks’ backyards for
months to come.
Chesterton resident Brandi Silvonek-Durko, a Lyme sufferer for 10 years,
spoke to the Chesterton-Porter Rotary Club at its meeting Tuesday afternoon:
to raise awareness of the disease, which many physicians have begun to see
as a far more debilitating, chronic, and painful malady than the medical
community at first recognized.
Lyme is caused by
the Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium and is known to be transmitted by
tick bite. It was first identified in 1975 in Old Lyme, Conn., where
children were mysteriously presenting symptoms initially diagnosed as
juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Lyme, in fact, has been called “The Great
Imitator,” as sufferers have been variously diagnosed with chronic fatigue
syndrome, ALS, Parkinson’s, MS, Lupus, and depression.
herself spent nine years making the rounds of doctors, being variously told
that her chronic fatigue and pain were the result of fibromyalgia, carpal
tunnel, pelvic floor dysfunction, interstitial cystitis, and insomnia,
before finally being diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2014.
“You would be
shocked by the number of people in our community with the same story,”
Silvonek-Durko told the Chesterton Tribune. “They either have been
diagnosed and are having a difficult time finding a doctor to treat them, or
they are suffering and still do not know why they are sick and can’t get
To avoid Lyme, one
needs to avoid ticks. Some tips:
tick-infested areas. Be sure to walk in the middle of trails.
* Treat skin,
clothing, and gear with appropriate repellents (permethrin on clothes/gear,
DEET on skin).
* Tuck pants into
* Perform at least
daily tick checks anytime you are outdoors, even if only in your own
backyard. Ticks can be as small as a poppy seed. Shower within one hour of
being outdoors to help prevent ticks from attaching.
* Carefully remove
any attached ticks. Use fine-point tweezers to grasp the tick as close to
the skin as possible. Gently pull the tick straight out, without twisting.
Save the tick for testing.
* Children ages 5
to 14 are at the greatest risk of acquiring Lyme Disease and constitute
approximately 25 percent of all reported cases.
traditionally been diagnosed when patients are known to have suffered from
tick bites present a bull’s-eye rash, joint pain, and fatigue. But less than
half of Lyme sufferers recall having experienced such a rash and a common
test for Lyme yields a not insignificant number of false negatives,
The CDC has
extrapolated from several surveys that as many as 300,000 new cases of Lyme
occur every year, compared to 50,000 new HIV infections annually and--so
far--no Zika infections attributable to a local mosquito bite, yet despite
the high incidence of the disease “there is relatively very meager support
for research funding,” Silvonek-Durko said.