Health Topics

Lymes Disease in the Pacific NW
Dr. Sheryl Wagner

Do we have Lyme disease in the northwest? Yes. If you get a tick bite and call the local health agency to ask if lyme disease is a concern, the answer you might get is "NO".

Lyme disease is very well known on the east coast and has been studied for decades. After many years and patients with acute and chronic lyme disease and treatment on the East coast, doctors now know more about what to look for and how to treat it. There is, however, a dearth of information on the west coast. Although ticks can travel on migrating herds of elk and other animals (not to mention pets who may travel in cars or airplanes, the presence of lyme across the country has not been the top news story it should be.

Local health departments often fall behind in disease information when they should be on the forefront. When a doctor diagnoses lyme or many other infectious diseases, they are supposed to report it to local health agencies. However, a colleague here in Washington attempted to do just that--report a whole family with Lyme who had acquied it at a specific site in Washington where they had suffered tick bites. The answer of the agency, "No, we don't have Lyme here."
Is it because Lyme treatment can be so expensive, or is it because Lyme diagnosis has, in the past, been controversial? Now there are lyme test panels that test not only antibodies to certain antigens in the blood, but also test for the presence of Lyme genetic material.

Here are some symptoms of lyme disease (you may notice similarities between Lyme and other "diseases" such as MS, fibromyalgia, autism, ALS, even menopause:
1. muscular pains, especially if they are in different parts of the body
2. depression and/or memory problems, mood swings that are unexplainable
3. muscle weakness
4. muscle twitching/tremors
5. fevers or night sweats
6. joint swelling
7. light or sound sensitivity
8. headache
9. seizures
10. vertigo
11. tingling/numbness
12.heart palpitations
13. fatigue
14. symptoms flare every 4 weeks

Of course when these symptoms are treated separately by doctors, it takes a long time to reach a Lyme diagnosis.
Usually with lyme patients, normal tests come out normal or almost normal (such as no markers for arthritis despite joint pain)

Update 10/13/11: possible ways people in the city have been in contact with lyme ticks as reported by patients recently: dog bought and shipped from Tennesee had ticks on it when it arrived, christmas tree bought at a city lot had ticks on it that tested positive for lyme disease, deer brought home from hunting had ticks on it which fell onto the garage floor. There are many ways of coming into contact with ticks even if you don't go out in the woods.