Yes, Oregon Has Lyme Disease

In a personal essay, Marcie Wolf wrote about her experience with Lyme disease in Corvallis. Watch your activities this summer to stay safe from this insidious illness.  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predict that approximately 476,000 Americans become infected with Lyme disease each year. While the disease is most prominent on the East Coast Pennsylvania reported 6,763 confirmed cases in 2019, infections occur in approximately 40-50 Oregonians each yearin 1988, there were approximately five cases; in 2014, approximately 45 were reported. Oregon cases have steadily increased over the past 30 years. 

Causes 

Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi that is spread through an infected tick’s bite. Of the four types of tick species in Oregon that bite humans, the western back-legged tick is the only known species to transmit Lyme in the state. While the southwestern part of Oregon typically sees the most Lyme disease infections, cases have been seen in other areas of the state as well.  

Nymphs young ticks most commonly transmit Lyme, and are most active during the spring and summer. Common bite locations that are often missed are the armpit, groin, or scalp. In order for a tick to transmit the infection, it must be attached to its host for between 24-48 hours.  

Symptoms 

Symptoms of Lyme disease can involve the musculoskeletal, nervous, and cardiovascular systems and can vary depending on the stage of the disease.  Symptoms can include but are not limited to:  

  • Joint pain and/or swelling  
  • Stiff neck, headache or fever due to lymphocytic meningitis 
  • Facial palsy 
  • Sensory changes  
  • Vision problems  
  • Chest pain, shortness of breath, or abnormal heart rate  
  • Extreme fatigue 
  • “bull’s eye” rash  
  • Bone and muscle pain 

Diagnosis 

Lyme disease is ultimately diagnosed with blood tests, but doctors are also encouraged to consider the patient’s symptoms, location, and medical history when diagnosing. Since symptoms can often mirror other illnesses such as multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, and arthritis, it is important that these conditions be ruled out.  

Complications from Lyme come primarily when the peripheral or central nervous systems become infected. They can include Lyme meningitis a recurrent form of aseptic meningitis, Lyme arthritis, and Lyme carditis — which can be fatal.   

Treatment, Prognosis, Prevention 

Antibiotics such as doxycycline, amoxicillin, and cefuroxime are the most common treatments for Lyme disease, which work well for most. However, even with treatment, some patients continue to have symptoms. Approximately 10 – 20% of patients continue on to suffer from post-treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome with similar symptoms such as fatigue and joint pain, requiring ongoing treatment.  

For those who spend time in wooded or vegetated areas during the spring and summer months, wear appropriate clothing to cover vulnerable skin areas (i.e. long sleeves, pants, close-toed shoes, and hats). Additionally, utilize insect repellent and check skin for ticks thoroughly when returning from outdoors.  

For more information on Lyme disease and prevention, visit the Lyme Disease Association, Inc.  

By: Rebekah Harcrow