Prince Frederick, MD – After briefly telling her personal story of fighting Lyme disease, Corinne Jamison Cook unintentionally demonstrated to a large audience—in the room and watching a live stream—how devastating the affects can be. The former clerk to the county commissioners and other members of a Lyme disease support group accepted a proclamation declaring May as Lyme Disease Awareness Month at the April 28 board meeting.
After accepting the proclamation from Calvert Commissioners’ President Steve Weems, Cook began exhibiting signs of the chronic Lyme that she first experienced over 20 years ago. Cook said prior to receiving the proclamation that the disease, which is caused by a bite from a blacklegged tick, first manifested itself as joint pain and fatigue. While medical experts warn that a “bull’s eye rash” will appear on the skin of someone bitten by a tick and infected by Lyme, Cook said she and many others “never saw the ticks, never saw the bites.” Only about 20 percent of tick bite victims get the rash, said Cook, who added she has also been told that “there’s no such thing as ‘chronic’ Lyme disease.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there are 300,000 new cases of Lyme disease reported nationwide each year, said Cook. The centers reported that Maryland is one of 14 states where 95 percent of the cases were reported in 2013.
“Patients treated with appropriate antibiotics in the early stages of Lyme disease usually recover rapidly and completely,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.
Cook explained her Lyme disease went into remission but in 2011 returned in the form of a new infection, which crossed into her brain. In 2012, Cook had to retire from Calvert County Government.
After Cook was helped out of the hearing room during the April 28 meeting, Commissioner Pat Nutter lamented the impact chronic Lyme disease has had on “an energetic young woman” he had first worked with after winning his first election in 2010. “This terrible disease just took over her body.”
On Wednesday, May 6, Calvert County’s Lyme Awareness Network Support Group hosted a showing of the film documentary “Under Our Skin.” The 2001 film chronicles the lives of several people infected with the Lyme bacteria and the legal struggles of several doctors who have tried to treat what they believe were cases of chronic Lyme disease.
Support group members are still reeling from the sudden death last December of Dr. Rafik Aboul-Nasr. The physician, whose office was in Lusby, was considered by the group as the one local doctor willing to treat chronic Lyme disease despite pressure from health insurance providers regulators not to do so.
“Everybody reacts a little differently with different symptoms,” local Lyme support group member Melody Pfeifer told the county commissioners at the April 28 meeting. Pfeifer said several years ago when she began noticing odd aches, pains and fevers she began to keep a journal. The first doctor she consulted with told her she had bursitis. “I knew something was wrong,” said Pfeifer, who explained she initially tested negative twice for Lyme disease. “Lyme tests simply aren’t accurate yet. We’re kind of in a pioneer mode.”
During his quarterly report, delivered to the Calvert County Commissioners—meeting as the county’s Board of Health Tuesday, May 12—Calvert Health Officer Dr. Laurence Polsky spoke briefly about measures individuals can take to avoid contracting Lyme disease. The list includes wearing repellant—the preferred solution is DEET—checking your body for ticks on a daily basis, showering soon after being outdoors and calling you physician immediately if you get a fever or a rash.
Polsky said it takes at least 36 hours for a tick to prepare, attach and spread the disease. “The earlier the treatment is administered the more effective the treatment,” he said.
For the effective removal of a tick, Polsky recommended residents purchase a plastic hook that is available in many stores and cost only $1. He said the hook works better than tweezers. While the hook is made specifically to remove ticks from domestic animals, it works just as effectively on humans.
Calvert’s Lyme Awareness Network Support Group meets the first Monday of each month at 6 p.m. at Calvert Memorial Hospital.
To learn more about Lyme disease visit www.lymediseasechallenge.org
Contact Marty Madden at firstname.lastname@example.org