Lyme disease still a risk in ‘low-risk’ areas

Fatigue, headaches, fever, muscle chills —they’re all symptoms you may have had with several kinds of illnesses. But ahead of the summer season, these symptoms could be a sign of something dangerous: lyme disease.

Although the Centers for Disease Control says Lyme disease is more commonly found in the Northeast, specialists and those living with the disease themselves say one of the biggest misconceptions is that you can’t get it here. The risk here is low, but it’s still there.

Jennifer Werstein remembers playing with siblings and friends on her family’s Kentucky land. She says she wouldn’t change a thing, but she was bitten by a tick while playing in the woods there. She then began the process of figuring out the secret behind her many and varied symptoms.

“At the time, I was begging for help,” Werstein says. “I just wanted someone to believe me, someone to tell me ‘you’re right.'”

Because the disease inherently imitates other illnesses, Werstein says doctors would treat her symptoms, but it wasn’t until years until she found relief in a diagnosis.

“It’s not as uncommon as most people think, except for the fact that no one talks about it,” Werstein says.

Purchase Area Health Department Director of Nursing Dorothy Altrogge says the disease is more common than many realize because testing is not reliable.

“We don’t normally get enough testing done to make it reportable,” Altrogge says.

Altrogge says those living in “low risk” areas can be at the greatest risk because of how long the disease can progress without a diagnosis. “Doctors, when they see symptoms, they want to treat,” she says. “Which makes sense, so they treat based on a single test opposed to many samples.”

But with a life that could have been pill-free, Werstein says she wants to help spread awareness.

Many health insurance policies do not cover Lyme disease testing. Similar to the ALS ice bucket challenge, you can raise awareness for Lyme disease through ‘Take a Bite Out of Lyme’.

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