Free clinic helps to diagnose Lyme disease

June 18, 2013 2:39:06 PM PDT
It's summer and that means Lyme disease season. One of the hospitals in our area has a program to diagnose and treat the illness quickly.

Westchester Medical Center is having its annual tick screening. If you're in the area and have had Lyme disease symptoms, it's a fast way to get answers and treatment. And it's free.

A deer tick spreads Lyme disease. They start out the size of a poppy seed on a bagel. Kevin Pellon didn't see the one that bit him and caused a rash.

"These little spots - one is the biopsy we did and the other the bite," Pellon said.

Doctors diagnosed him quickly at Westchester Medical Center's free Lyme screening clinic. He thought the rash may have been a black and blue mark from his paintball hobby.

"While I still had doubts, they said 'ah, it's Lyme disease,'" he said.

The screening can provide that kind of certainty because in Westchester, even these stretches of manicured lawn, can harbor ticks, and doctors see the illness every day.

It starts generally with a tick bite and a red rash. There can be mental confusion and poor concentration. Fever and fatigue are common within a couple days of the bite.

Kevin had the mental problems, fatigue and fever.

It's a beautiful summer day, but not you have a fever. The common cold is very uncommon in the summer. If you're in Westchester, Long Island or New Jersey in the country, it may be Lyme disease.

Treatment is a form of tetracycline called doxyclicine. Doctors may also use cefuroxime also called ceftin and amoxicillin. Another tick bite after a previous Lyme illness can cause another infection. The rash is enough to diagnose Lyme, even without your seeing a tick on your skin. Dr. Wormser's Lyme clinic is in its 25th year. It's open three evenings a week.

"To make it more convenient, we're offering a free service. If you have a rash and don't want to pay, we're happy to see you," Dr. Wormser said.

Kevin's a fan.

"I wish that more of us knew that this was here," he said.

The CDC says that doxycycline is in limited supply right now, but as we said, there are other antibiotics that kill the Lyme germ. Ticks found and removed within 24 hours do not spread the illness.

For more information, call (914) 493-tick. It's a 24 hour number for information on the free clinic, Lyme disease and tick information. The clinic is open Monday, Wednesday and Thursday in the evening.