Letters to the Editor

Viewpoint: Tick season is here — be vigilant

Most people are aware that Lyme disease is transmitted by the bite of a tick, but many people are unaware of the possible seriousness of this disease and the importance of prevention.

Spring is in full bloom and that means that tick season is here. Exercise caution by hiking with long pants (preferably light colored), shoes and socks. Apply DEET to your clothing before hiking and take a shower soon after returning.

Take a few minutes to check your body for ticks.

If you do happen to find a tick attached to your body, remove it by pulling straight out with tweezers, being careful to remove the head. The most prudent advice is to go to a doctor and request a three week course of Doxycycline. If your doctor is hesitant to prescribe an antibiotic, go to another doctor.

Unfortunately, some health professionals are still operating under the myth that “Lyme disease doesn’t exist in San Luis Obispo County.” A recent study found one in four ticks in Poly Canyon to be carrying the Lyme bacteria. In the past year, cases have been diagnosed in rural Arroyo Grande, Cayucos, Montaña de Oro and the Carrisa Plains. Currently, 10 to 20 cases per month are being diagnosed in San Luis Obispo County.

If you are infected and are treated immediately, Lyme disease will be a minor inconvenience in your life. Doxycycline is extremely effective for acute infections. If you are not treated, however, the effects can be devastating. The Lyme bacteria can attack virtually any system of the body and cause such a wide range of symptoms that it commonly is misdiagnosed for years as fibro-myalgia, multiple sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, and, worst of all, “we can’t find anything wrong with you, so it must be all in your head.”

Disease treatment is complicated by imperfect testing and a high rate of false negatives in patients with long-term infections. There is only one lab (Igenex) in the United States that has the capability to perform a reliable test.

If you are healthy, stay that way by taking precautions and if you suffer from mysterious ailments that are not ameliorated by traditional treatments, find a Lyme literate doctor to obtain a proper diagnosis. For more information, contact the San Luis Obispo Lyme Support Group at slolyme@charter.net.

Marla Lipshin is a founding member of the San Luis Obispo Lyme Disease Support Group. She was infected with Lyme disease in 1981 on a backpacking trip to Vancouver Island. She was in pain and disabled for 28 years and misdiagnosed with fibromyalgia and many other ailments until her daughter was diagnosed in 2007 after becoming infected in utero. Lipshin currently resides in Santa Margarita.