Lyme disease is transmitted to people through the bite of a deer tick (Ixodes scapularis) infected with the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. The first documented case of Lyme disease that occurred in Maine was in 1986. Lyme disease in Maine has increased each year from 2003 to 2011 (except for 2010, for unknown reasons).
A Report to the Maine Legislature from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention dated February 1, 2012 provides some insights into the recent experiences involving Lyme disease in Maine. The Report stated that there were 981 confirmed and probable cases of Lyme disease in Maine during calendar year 2011.
The reported symptoms of Lyme disease in Maine for 2011 included the characteristic expanding bulls-eye rash (erythema migrans) in 49% of the cases (484 cases); arthritis (joint swelling) in 32% of the cases (314 cases); and, neurological symptoms such as Bell’s Palsy in 10% of the cases (97 cases). (Reported Lyme disease cases could include more than one symptom.)
The Report included the following findings regarding Lyme disease in Maine during 2011:
Lyme disease patients had to be hospitalized in 5% of the cases (50 cases).
Symptoms of Lyme disease were first experienced during June, July, or August in 54% of the cases (the date when the symptoms first appeared were not reported in 20% of the cases).
Adults between the ages of 45 and 64 had the highest number of cases of Lyme disease.
Symptoms Of Lyme Disease
One of the commonly noted symptoms of Lyme disease is the formation of an expanding rash often described as a “bulls-eye rash” at the site of the tick bite between 3 and 30 days after the tick bite. Other common initial symptoms of Lyme disease include fever, headache, joint pain, muscle pain, and fatigue during the first several weeks. Later symptoms of Lyme disease may include arthritis in one or more joints (the knee is most common), Bell’s palsy and other palsies, meningitis, and carditis.
Diagnosis Of Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is diagnosed by clinical findings and with the assistance of lab tests. Patients should be treated for Lyme disease based on the basis of clinical findings – in a geographic area known to have Lyme disease, the appearance of an erythema migrans even without laboratory confirmation is enough to diagnose Lyme disease.
Laboratory testing is based on a two-tier testing algorithm. The first test is known as an Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbant Assay (ELISA). If the ELISA is positive or equivocal, it is followed by an IgM and IgC Immunoblot (an IgM Immunoblot is reliable only if done within 30 days from the onset of symptoms).
Treatment Of Lyme Disease
Most cases of Lyme disease can be effectively treated wth oral antibiotic for 10 days to a few weeks. If the nervous system, joints, or heart are involved, IV antibiotics for up to 28 days may be necessary. Lyme disease is rarely fatal.
Chronic Lyme Disease?
An important and controversial issue with regard to Lyme disease is whether Lyme disease can persist as a chronic infection that can be treated successfully with an extended course of antibiotics. A panel that recently reviewed the clinical practice guidelines for Lyme disease that were established in 2006 determined that there was no convincing evidence for the existence of chronic Lyme infection and that long-term antibiotic treatment of so-called chronic Lyme disease is unproven and unwarranted. (The CDC warns that the inappropriate use of IV antibiotics can lead to deadly blood infections, serious drug reactions, the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, C-diff. diarrhea, and other serious medical conditions.)
We would recommend that anyone concerned about Lyme disease or who lives in an area affected by Lyme disease (especially from Maine to Maryland) take the time to fully read the Maine Report because it contains a vast amount of timely and useful information about Lyme disease that may help you, your family, and your pets avoid exposure to Lyme disease and help you obtain timely and appropriate medical attention and treatment if you suspect that you may have been exposed to Lyme disease.
If you or a family member became infected with Lyme disease and it was either not timely diagnosed or not timely and appropriately treated by a health care provider, you may have a claim for medical malpractice for the misdiagnosis, late diagnosis, or the failure to diagnose and treat your Lyme disease that resulted in injuries or losses to you or your family.
Click here to visit our website or call us toll free at 800-295-3959 to be connected with medical malpractice lawyers in your local area who may be able to investigate your possible medical malpractice claim for you and file a medical malpratice case on your behalf, if appropriate.
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