Spreading awareness about Lyme

Ticky Business
By DEIRDRE FULTON  |  March 5, 2014

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IN THE CROSSHAIRS Ninety-five percent of Lyme
cases are reported in 13 states, one of which is Maine. 

With the prevalence of Lyme disease on the rise in Southern Maine and spring just around the corner (traditionally a high-risk time of year for coming in contact with disease-ridden ticks), the Falmouth-based non-profit health center True North is holding a community conference this weekend geared toward educating practitioners and the public about how to prevent and treat Lyme. Despite its increasing profile — Lyme is the most commonly reported vector-borne illness in the United States — many people, including doctors, remain unfamiliar with the disease.

“I was one of those physicians four or five years ago that really had no clue,” says Sunny Raleigh, doctor of osteopathic medicine at True North and Ticked Off! conference organizer. “The bull’s eye on my left flank was a real eye-opener for me.”

That’s right; Raleigh developed Lyme herself just last summer. Since then, she says she’s become much more “Lyme-literate,” going as far as to host physician roundtables every couple of months to talk about challenging cases, potential treatments, and more. This weekend’s event will be an amped-up version of those gatherings, featuring a Friday evening dinner discussion for prescribing practitioners followed by a full slate of public presentations on Saturday, March 8. Attendees can learn how to modify their backyard landscapes and behaviors to protect against tick bites, dietary strategies for managing chronic Lyme disease, and best practices for treating Lyme and its co-infections.

The Centers for Disease Control says more than 25,000 Americans will develop Lyme in 2014; in 2012, more than 1100 cases were reported to the Maine CDC. Just 43 percent of Lyme cases in Maine are accompanied by the classic bull’s eye rash — other symptoms include flu-like complaints (like fatigue or headaches) or neurological problems.

With the conference, Raleigh hopes to “stimulate the conversation and raise awareness so people don’t justify their symptoms for months and years and never fully feel...alive again.”

Admission to Ticked Off! is $50. For more information or to register visit truenorthhealthcenter.org.

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