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April 4, 2011

COMMON QUESTION: What is Lyme Disease?

Age 14: When I started having symptoms
So many people do not understand what Lyme Disease is. In fact, I had never heard of it before I was diagnosed.  Lyme gets its name after Lyme, Connecticut, no it has nothing to do with the citrus fruit or the build up in your shower.  

Basically, there were a ton of sick people in this town and they connected everyone to having the same bugs in their bodies (Borrelia burgdorferi).  These bacteria, known as spirochetes, are transferred into the body by deer ticks.  The tiny critter, which is the size of the period ending this sentence, finds its way onto a person or animal and backwashes (ew!).  During the process of filling its belly with delicious blood, it shares bacteria with the human or animal it is preying on.  

Many ticks bite people but only some of them carry the bacteria that cause Lyme disease, however most ticks share some type of bacteria with their prey.  In my case I was given the borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme), babesia, and bartonella.  The second two are known as co-infections and are hard to kill, but not nearly as stubborn as the Lyme.  So basically, I had three different species of bacteria partying in my body multiplying and penetrating my brain, nerves, and tissues for the past 8 years. 

And if you are thinking..."what were you doing when you got infected?" The answer is...I have no idea! I have never really been an outdoor girl.  Eight to nine years ago I was playing soccer, went to summer camp, but most of my time was spent inside doing art projects and hanging out with friends (not a typical Lyme victim, but somehow I was bit so I finding a purpose in that.  Oh, and yes I am still extremely grossed out to think of a tick backwashing into me!  

The four stages of a tick. 
Let me dispel a few myths for you: 

1. Lyme is all over the United States and all over the world.  The infected ticks are not quarantined to specific states or countries no matter what doctors or the CDC say - more on this controversy later.

2. The red rash that supposedly occurs after being bit by an infected tick only happens for a small number of people.  (Even if you were bitten and did get a red rash, you may have it in an area on your body that you wouldn't see like you scalp or genitals.)
3. Ticks are tiny and their bites are painless. You rarely will see them-see picture.  The tiniest ones do the most damage from what I have learned.
4. Douglas County has really high numbers of infected people...if my story sounds anything like yours, you might want to consider being tested.

P.S. I do not claim to be a scientific genius, but I am trying to understand this disease to the best of my ability. 

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