Lyme disease season is here

May 27, 2010 3:13:34 PM PDT
Nicole Schooley-Fox had Lyme disease, with quite uncommon symptoms. It began last October with a splitting headache.

"The next day I woke up and my eye was bloodshot red, but the headache was gone," Nicole said.

Nicole's eye problem is called iritis, and treatment for Lyme disease made it go away completely.

The deer tick spreads the Lyme germ when it bites.

Ticks are active from spring to fall, and wooded areas where deer and other warm blooded creatures live are Lyme country.

But you don't have to hike or walk in the tall grass. Even a lawn close by will do.

"You don't have to be in a wooded area. You can just be by a wooded area. You just have to have ticks present that have Lyme disease," Dr. Tracy Zivin-Tutela of St. Luke's-Roosevelt said.

Pets can bring those infected ticks into the house.

Here are symptoms to watch for:

  • A flu-like illness in the summer, an unusual time for that.
  • A bullseye shaped red rash, especially at the hairline or groin, though many never see a rash.
  • Untreated, heart rhythm problems and swollen joints can come weeks later.

    There are blood tests to help make the diagnosis.

    In Central Park, it's kind of wooded. There's grass. Can you get Lyme disease here?

    Infectious disease expert Dr. Zivin-Tulelo says no. It would be extremely unusual to get Lyme disease in any of the five boroughs.

    If you're elsewhere, insect repellants containing deet offer excellent protection.

    Dr. Zivin-Tutela says the infection is 100% curable with antibiotics, as with Nicole, who has learned a lesson.

    "I'm definitely going to looking for little rashes on my body and checking my hair for ticks," she said.

    As with common bacterial infections such as strep throat, you can get it again and again. The ticks can be tiny, about the size of a poppy seed, especially in the springtime.

    Some people believe that Lyme disease can become chronic and need repeated antibiotics, but most infection specialists disagree.