Lyme Disease Hits Utah!
The Salt Lake Tribune
By: Kirsten Stewart
Updated: 03/27/2010 08:11:41 PM MDT
State epidemiologists will partner in coming months with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources to investigate a possible infestation of Lyme disease-carrying ticks in Lehi.
As many as seven residents of northern Lehi have reportedly been diagnosed with Lyme disease, a bacterial infection transmitted by tick bites that causes flu-like symptoms. Though treatable with antibiotics, the infection can spread to joints, the heart and nervous system.
Utah County Health officials have yet to confirm the diagnoses. But the sheer number of cases — nearly equal the state’s annual average — has them concerned enough to form a task force to investigate matter.
“We’ve been accused of not caring,” said agency spokesman Lance Madigan. “But before we alarm people, we want to make sure we know what we’re dealing with.”
The investigation will entail interviewing people suspected of having the disease.
“Most Utahns get Lyme disease by traveling to places where it’s endemic,” said Madigan. “So we’ll be asking about people’s travel histories.”
Epidemiologists will also test, or retest, people who are symptomatic.
All of the suspected cases so far were diagnosed using a IgG test, said Madigan. It’s a common blood test familiar to most doctors. But it can trigger false positives, he said. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommends a more sensitive IgM Western Blot test.
Wildlife officials will also likely begin
canvassing for ticks that carry the disease.
It is known that ticks in Utah can cause diseases, such as Colorado Tick Fever, and they’re tested periodically, said state Health Department spokesman Tom Hudachko who is unaware of any Utah ticks testing positive for Lyme disease.
“If we find some, we could be looking at the first Utah-borne cases in quite some time,” Hudachko said.
Though thankful for the state’s involvement, Lehi resident Rachelle Fleming would like speedier results.
Her diagnosis came last November within weeks of a tick bite on her hand. She thinks she got it playing in the backyard with kids, and at the time, had no reason to worry.
But when her hand grew swollen and red, and she started suffering chills, a neighbor suggested she be tested for Lyme disease.
“My doctor thought it was incredibly unlikely,” Fleming said. “We were both surprised when the test came back positive.”
Fleming counts herself lucky, because she was diagnosed and treated early. It took a close neighbor a year-and-a-half to discover the source of her symptoms.
Though mostly symptom-free, she says there are mornings she wakes up with arthritic-type pain.
“I have new appreciation for my 80-year-old grandmother,” Fleming says. And she fears for her kids.
“I just want to spread the word, because there could be people around here who have it and don’t know it,” Fleming said. “Just the fact that we’ve found ticks in our neighborhood is a bit surprising and alarming.”