FAQs About Lyme Disease in California
Los Angeles Lyme Disease Insurance Bad Faith Attorneys
What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is tick-borne illness caused by a spirochete (a corkscrew shaped bacteria) called Borrelia burgdorferi. It is transmitted through the bite of the western black-legged tick, which is not an insect, but belongs in the family of arachnids (which includes spiders, scorpions, and mites) and lives in almost every county throughout the entire state of California. [See Map of western black-legged tick collection locations (PDF, New Window) November 2011]
Lyme disease was first described in North America in the 1970s in Lyme, Connecticut, the town for which it was then named, but tens of thousands of cases have since been reported throughout the nation including thousands in California.
How many people in California get Lyme disease each year?
Each year in California, on average, more than 90 new cases of Lyme disease are reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Historically, some of the locations with the most reported cases include Santa Cruz, Los Angeles, Sonoma, Contra Costa, Humboldt, Mono, and San Francisco.
The CDC lists northern California as one of the three areas in the U.S. where Lyme disease is considered endemic and where most Lyme disease infections are reported. These areas are:
- Any of the northeastern states, from Maine to Virginia;
- The north-central states, with the highest incidence in Wisconsin and Minnesota;
- The west coast, primarily in northern California (CDC, 2011)
In 2013, there were 90 confirmed cases of Lyme in California, with an additional 22 reported suspected cases, and in 2013, California ranked 20th in the nation for the total number of reported cases of Lyme disease.
What are the stage of Lyme disease?
There are three stages of Lyme Disease.
Stage 1 — Early Localized: In the early localized stage is when the bacteria has not spread throughout the body. Certain blood tests may show a false negative during this stage.
Stage 2 — Early Disseminated: In this stage, the bacteria has begun to spread throughout the body. This stage usually occurs weeks to months after infection.
Stage 3 – Late: In stage 3, the bacteria has spread throughout the body. Late symptoms can occur weeks, months, or even years after becoming infected with Lyme disease. Some people may either miss, or not show any symptoms until the late stage. This is another reason why diagnosis and treatment for some is more difficult than for others. [Read “Signs and Symptoms of Stages of Lyme Disease”]
Is Lyme disease curable?
That depends on how soon it is diagnosed, how aggressively it is treated, and how the patient responds to treatment. It also depends on who you ask.
The medical community remains somewhat divided as to whether Lyme is always completely curable, or, if there is such a condition as chronic Lyme. Some doctors believe Lyme can be cured by treatment with antibiotics, others, however, believe differently. Many patients are not diagnosed in its early stages and the disease can cause many problems that can result in serious, chronic medical problems of their own.
Lyme can cause paralysis, damage to the brain and cognitive functions, joints, and extreme weakness and fatigue. Some cases have been reported to result in complications that has lead to death,
The CDC explains this way:
“Patients treated with antibiotics in the early stages of the infection usually recover rapidly and completely. Most patients who are treated in later stages of the disease also respond well to antibiotics, although some may have suffered long-term damage to the nervous system or joints. Approximately 10-20% of patients experience fatigue, muscle aches, sleep disturbance, or difficulty thinking even after completing a recommended course of antibiotic treatment. These symptoms cannot be cured by longer courses of antibiotics, but they generally improve on their own, over time.” Source: CDC, Chronic Lyme Disease
Can Lyme disease be fatal?
Lyme can, and has caused, complications that resulted in death; however, relatively few deaths have been reported, and death is less likely to occur if a patient has had early and proper treatment.
CDC statistics show that during the period of 2002 through 2007, 36 people died from Lyme disease. For the period 2012-2013, the CDC reported three deaths in people (two men, and one young woman) who all had Lyme disease, but had not been treated. All three adults died suddenly from heart attacks caused by a heart infection known as Lyme carditis ( both men died within six weeks of contracting Lyme disease). Later in 2013, two more patients presumed to have had Lyme also died of carditis.
While not always fatal, the death rate for Lyme carditis is high among those who contract this serious infection. CDC statistics state that among 121,894 cases reported during 1995–2013 (120,198 cases with any form of Lyme disease and 1,696 cases with carditis specified) 702 of those patients all died within one year.
The above findings led to the CDC to issue the following warning:
…”Health care providers should consider Lyme disease as a cause of cardiac symptoms in patients who live in or have visited a high-incidence Lyme disease region, especially during summer and fall months and regardless of whether the patient reports erythema migrans. Additionally, health care providers should investigate the potential for cardiac involvement in patients who have other signs or symptoms of Lyme disease, particularly if they report chest pain, palpitations, lightheadedness, shortness of breath, or syncope. Patients with Lyme carditis should be diagnosed and treated according to current treatment guidelines. It is recommended that health care providers remind patients at risk for Lyme disease about common signs and symptoms and steps they can take to prevent infection. Patients who think they might have Lyme disease or Lyme carditis are encouraged to see their health care provider promptly.”
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