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Host: Scott LaMar

PA at center of Lyme disease outbreak

Written by Rich Copeland - Producer, WITF's Smart Talk | Jul 10, 2017 4:00 AM
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Like the flap of a butterfly's wing generating a typhoon a half a world away, a warmer than average winter has led to a seemingly random consequence.  Warmer winters allowed oak trees to generate more acorns which allowed more mice to produce bigger litters in the spring, more mice carry more ticks.  And more ticks create a broader vector for Lyme disease.

7,351 Pennsylvanians had confirmed cases of Lyme though the CDC estimates the actual number to be nearly 10 times higher.   The disease is caused by a bacterial infection transmitted by ticks.  Symptoms include fever, rash, lethargy, muscle pain and loss of sensation and movement.  If left untreated, the infection can linger for months leading to chronic motor and sensory impairment, physical pain and mental distress.

While Lyme disease has a presence throughout the entirety of the United States, 99% of reported cases occur in the Northeast with Pennsylvania being the epicenter.  Between the lush forests of the Commonwealth and the draw of outdoor activities, ticks have an abundance of hosts to choose from - both feral and human.

On the Monday edition of WITF's Smart Talk, we discuss Lyme disease with a young woman who contracted it and has been battling its effects for two and a half years.  Samantha Perry was sidelined her freshman year at Penn State when the infection overwhelmed her with pain and exhaustion.  She and her mother, Carrie, joined Project Lyme to spread awareness of the disease.

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Samantha and Carrie Perry - Project Lyme

We'll also speak with Dr. Loren Robinson, Deputy Secretary for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at the Pennsylvania Department of Health about the state's efforts at vector control and prevention.  Dr. Chris Turnpaugh, founder of the Turnpaugh Health and Wellness Center in Mechanicsburg, will parse out the signs and symptoms of the disease as well as treatment techniques.

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Dr. Loren Robinson - Deputy Secretary for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, Pennsylvania Department of Health / Dr. Chris Turnpaugh - Founder, Turnpaugh Health and Wellness Center

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- I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease. I am among the lucky folks. But I was diagnosed early because of my dog-YukiOnna.  She was limping one day one paw second day another paw and so forth for over a week.

So being confused went to Vet. It is called "ghost pawing" and a classic sign of Lyme in dogs. Vet put her on medication.  So I then went to my doctor as I had a bite mark-itchy but not bullseye. I was tested positive.

Went on medication and till this day no serious consequences-VERY LUCKY.  I do believe that because I was diagnosed very early-due to my dog I came out on the lucky side.

Just an interesting aside that those who have pets need to also keep eye on their pets.                                               - Sabina

- Has there been any thought given to bringing back the Lymrix vaccine discontinued in the late 90's?  Some people had problems with it, but I got the series of three shots and experienced no long term effects..                          - Art, Harrisburg

One of your guests said there was no spray for ticks.  I get a lawn treatment for fleas and ticks.  Does this mean that this treatment is not effective?              - Ken, Camp Hill

- On the angle of patients not being listened to, and we as the patient or the parent having to often do our own research and find out what's going on FOR the doctors, I'm curious to know how the medical community responds to us having to do this for them? Having special needs kids, I have to do this all the time. I have a daughter that I am fairly convinced has Lyme. I have all the backing of my own research, but I can't get a doctor to believe me because I don't have an MD behind my name, and I don't have the means to seek the help of a private lab. How do we get the medical community to start listening to us and working with us instead of against us?             - Valerie, Lancaster

What is in place for families who have loved ones suffering with the many facets of this disease, but do not have the financial resources to seek the additional services that would bring them better health?  Some families are barely able to put food on the table and meet the basic needs of the family, much less cover the "out of pocket" costs needed to bring back good health.          - Jan, Hershey

- I am very surprised you had some ineffective Lyme information on the program.  Lyme disease is full of quack treatments, such as massage, homeopathic medications, and so forth.

Instead research the CDC, Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins, Penn State's urban entomologist, the University of Connecticut, and other science based resources.        - Cindy

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