May 4-10 Lyme Disease Awareness Week
UKIAH, CALIFORNIA, April 15: In an unusual show of
unity, more than half of California’s legislators in
both political parties have voted to pass a resolution declaring
the first week of May Lyme Disease Awareness Week, according
to Herb Dorken, PhD, volunteer legislative advocate for the
all-volunteer nonprofit California Lyme Disease Association
(CALDA), the resolution’s sponsor. May 4 to 10 will be California’s first Lyme Disease Awareness
disease occurs world-wide and is a “hidden epidemic” in California, according
to CALDA president Phyllis Mervine, a Ukiah resident.
Although Lyme disease-carrying ticks have been reported
from all but two counties, many doctors are unfamiliar
with the disease and reluctant to diagnose it. Farmers,
ranchers, foresters, and others who work outdoors are
at high risk for acquiring Lyme disease. Twenty-five
percent of Lyme patients reported nationwide are children
under age 15. Mervine and three of her children have
Lyme disease is diagnosed promptly and treated properly,
most people recover quickly. However a CALDA survey showed
almost half the respondents had their diagnosis delayed
4 years because their doctors did not understand how
to interpret the tests. People not treated early often
develop chronic Lyme disease with crushing fatigue, cognitive
dysfunction, neurologic damage, arthritis, heart rhythm
irregularities, vision or hearing deficits, or mental
problems. People may be misdiagnosed with chronic fatigue,
fibromyalgia, MS, or even a psychiatric illness.
bite of the poppy-seed-sized nymphal tick is the cause
of most human cases. Half the people who come down with
Lyme disease do not recall a tick bite.
hatch out in the late spring,” Mervine explained. “They
are common in leaf litter under deciduous trees, especially
under oaks and anywhere mice are numerous. Sitting on
downed logs is especially risky, since nymphal ticks
climb up on them.”
cases of Lyme disease occur in summer. Early symptoms
include a flu-like illness with fever, headache, swollen
glands and aching muscles. Some people develop a characteristic
rash around the bite area.
disease may be complicated by co-infections. Ticks in California may also carry
ehrlichia, a disease that also infects horses; babesia,
a malaria-like parasite that infects red blood cells;
and tularemia, or rabbit fever, a potential bioterrorism
agent; and several other diseases.
Prevention is key to avoiding Lyme disease.
- Use sprays
containing permethrin on clothing.
tick-infested areas and check yourself frequently for
tiny ticks for several days following exposure.
any biting ticks promptly, using tweezers or a special
- Do not
twist, squeeze or mutilate the tick. Try not to get
any tick fluids on your bare skin.
- Disinfect the bite area and wash your hands.
the tick in a small vial or plastic bag in case you
want to test it.
the area for any signs of a developing rash.
- See a
doctor knowledgeable about Lyme disease if you experience
a rash or flu-like illness after exposure to ticks.
is an affiliate of the national Lyme Disease Association
and works with other LDA affiliates to educate and support
people with Lyme disease. CALDA publishes a quarterly
journal, the Lyme Times. Mervine will be participating
in the Marin Human Race on May 7 to raise funds for CALDA.
Donations are tax deductible. For more information, visit
the CALDA website at www.LymeDisease.org.
Phyllis Mervine, President
California Lyme Disease Association
Affiliate of the Lyme Disease Association,
PO Box 1423
Ukiah, CA 95482