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Chronic Lyme Disease - hard to diagnose, hard to treat, controversial among medical field

April 05, 2012|by Jay Scherder, KY3 News | jscherder@ky3.com

GREENE COUNTY, Mo -- A mild winter season could translate into more ticks and more bites this Spring. According to the Center's for Disease Control, cases of Lyme Disease has steadily risen in the last decade.

The data suggests people in the Ozarks shouldn't have to worry about ever getting Lyme Disease. However, several people who spoke with KY3 say that data isn't telling the whole story, and that ignorance about this debilitating disease could lead to a lifetime of pain and suffering.   

"I was depressed. I was anxious. I have significant mental fog," said Jenni Fansler.

"There are days that you feel so bad you truly think you are going to die," said Elizabeth Ferguson.

"I think I still have a long way to go. I still have memory issues. I still have joint pain. I still have fatigue." said Eric Figg.

Three different people -- from three different areas of the Ozarks -- are all fighting the same thing. It's something that comes with a laundry list of symptoms.

"It gets into your cells. It gets into your nervous system. It gets into your joints. It gets into all these places and it's harder to treat," said Fansler.

"I went through my phases like 'am I crazy?' because it is so strange," said Ferguson.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, they're fighting something that barely exists in Missouri--Lyme Disease.

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"We've been told everything from 'Lyme doesn't exist in Missouri; it's only on the East Coast," said Kimberlie Figg.
 
"Some doctors don't even believe Lyme Disease exists. Even though I come and 'here is my positive test. I have the symptoms," said Ferguson.

CDC data suggests Lyme Disease is only prevalent on the East Coast and up North. Advocate groups like the International Lyme And Associated Diseases Society believe it is a nationwide problem that shouldn't be ignored.

"People are being told that it's rare and that's it hard to get and we don't live in an area where Lyme exists. That's a problem because none of that is true," said Kimberlie Figg.

The controversy is more complex than whether or not it exists in Missouri. "The skepticism comes more in with the later stages. A lot of disagreement in the medical community about whether or not late term Lyme disease exists," said Fansler.

"I've had lyme for so many years; it is very chronic," said Ferguson.

According to the Columbia University Medical Center, CDC criteria isn't very helpful for helping detect late stage Lyme Disease. A patient's treatment can either not occur or could be delayed.

"There's many, many, many days that I didn't think I would live to see the last day,"said Ferguson.

That delay can result in a treatable illness becoming a chronic, less responsive one.

Caught early, antibiotics can wipe out Lyme Disease before it becomes a problem.  However, that's easier said that done. Not all cases involve a bulls eye rash around the tick bite that people often associate Lyme Disease with.

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