Experts: Many people unaware of lyme exposure

WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- It's a condition often called "The Great Imitator",a complex disease from a small bug that mimics many other illnesses. Thousands of lyme disease cases are reported every year, but some experts say thousands more may have been exposed.

The bacteria lurks in the woods throughout the Mid-Atlantic and it's transmitted from the bite of a deer-tick. Lyme disease has been reported in 49 of the 50 states but it is most prevalent in the NE from Maine to Virginia, and in parts of Wisconsin and Minnesota.

30-thousand cases are reported every year, but some experts believe up to 10 times more cases are possibly out there.

Andrea Caesar has lyme disease, she says, "I'm not surprised at all and I actually think the number is much higher than that."

While living in New England, Andrea first noticed major debilitating symptoms when she was very young. Before Lyme disease was first recognized by the medical community.

Caesar says, "They started with migraines, constant migraines at age 11. Body pain, extreme fatigue, shortness of breath. I was told that I have the flu, they thought I was just a sickly child."

It would be another 26-years before Andrea was accurately diagnosed after experts learned more about lyme disease. But by then the bacteria had already ravaged her brain.

"As I got older it turned into more neurological symptoms such as paranoia, and hypertension, things like that," adds Caesar.

Dr. Manpreet Singh of Inova Medical Group says many of us could have been exposed to lyme antibodies, but the damage to the body can vary from person-to-person.

Dr. Singh says, "If we do a random antibody titer on a general population, we would find about 40 to 50 percent population would have that exposure antibodies positive."

For many people, after the first exposure, the body can take care of it in the early stages and they don't have complications.

Dr. Singh says, "It's exactly like flu illness, some people the simple flu can cause a major problem and even cause death, and it's exactly the same with lyme disease."

Now Andrea is being treated for the damage that lyme disease caused to her brain over the years.

Caesar says,"So I take about 50 to 70 vitamins, supplements, medicines, and antibiotics a day." She hopes doctors will one day find a treatment that will stop the decline of her cognitive functions.

Experts say this time of year is critical for checking your children for ticks and abnormal symptoms as summer camps come to an end.

Andrea wrote a book called "A Twist of Lyme" that highlights her struggle with the illness. Doctors say if you see a tick on your body you should remove it, place the tick in a ziploc bag, and send it to a lab to get tested. This is the best way to tell if you are infected with lyme antibodies.

You can follow Andrea Caesar on Twitter @atwistoflymebook


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