ENVIRONMENT, INTER-ISLAND NEWS
July 15, 2014
Lyme cases on Islesboro grew between 2012 and 2013
Residents remain split on response
by Wanda Curtis
ISLESBORO — Officials at the island health center report that the number of Lyme disease cases treated on the island rose at an alarming rate between 2012 and 2013. The Islesboro Health Center recorded an almost eight-fold increase in the number of confirmed cases of Lyme treated at the facility.
Alison Wood, a physician assistant at the center, said 86 people received treatment in 2013, compared to 11 people in 2012, what she called "a tremendous jump." (Those numbers don't include those treated for suspected Lyme.)
Increased awareness about the disease could have contributed to more people being treated, Wood said, but she is certain the number of people infected is increasing. Health center officials are skilled in detecting the disease after having
treated many cases the last five years, she added.
"We see it. We know it. We treat it," said Wood.
Lyme disease can cause a multitude of symptoms but some of the most common include rash, fever, fatigue, stiff neck and aching joints in the early stages. If left untreated, it can progress to more serious cardiac and neurological symptoms. Some people develop a circular bulls eye rash around the tick bite or elsewhere on the body. But that signature rash may not appear or it may not look the same in every case.
Kara Master, a summer resident, said she developed a light pink circular rash around a tick bite she received in Bethel earlier in the year. She dismissed the rash because it wasn't bright red like the photos of bulls-eye shaped rashes she’d seen before. During the next few months, she experienced low-grade fevers, fatigue and a stiff neck. She decided to get checked and was diagnosed with Lyme. She was later diagnosed with another tick-borne illness in addition to Lyme.
Masters thinks she had Lyme disease longer than a few months or that she was
re-infected because she didn't improve with the usual course of Doxycycline. She also was experiencing symptoms such as "brain fog" (an inability to concentrate) and other symptoms more commonly reported by those who fail to get early treatment. She eventually sought extended treatment from a Kennebunk physician who specializes in Lyme disease. He prescribed a longer course of antibiotics.
Masters urges others who don't respond to the initial treatment to seek out a Lyme specialist and to educate themselves. She also said her condition improved using a combination of allopathic and homeopathic treatments.
One of the challenges of diagnosing the disease is that blood tests aren't always accurate. Some providers now make the decision to treat with antibiotics,
even in the absence of a positive test, if a number of the more common symptoms are present.
Tick experts are predicting a large population will be seen in New England this year because of the snowy winter and wet spring. Ted St. Amand, district manager for Atlantic Pest Solutions, heard reports from those tapping trees for maple syrup in March reported seeing ticks at the base of trees where the snow was receding. St. Amand, an entomologist, said those early sightings could suggest a large population of ticks this year. Black-legged deer ticks become
infected with Lyme disease after feeding on infected mice. Deer then transport infected ticks from place to place.
Islanders voted to extend the bow season and to allow deer hunting with guns for a three-year period to decrease the deer herd on the island to 10 per square mile, resident Linda Gillies, who has served on the deer reduction committee, said. But that resulted in only a small reduction the first year. Residents recently voted down the idea of hiring sharp shooters, she said.
Gillies said Islesboro residents remain divided on how to address the problem. In the meantime, cases on the island increase.
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