Despite data, Lyme disease sufferers say infection has arrived in Utah
Excerpted from the Deseret News ( Posted: 02/11/2012)
SALT LAKE CITY — A once vibrant 14-year-old is often too sick to get out of bed. Her health has been off and on like that for nearly two years.
Sometimes she’s throwing up uncontrollably. Other times, pain resonates through her body. Most of the time she just feels general malaise. And after dozens of blood tests, medical visits and lab reports, no one is really sure what Alyssa Holt is suffering from.
Her mother and an out-of-state doctor, who is treating Alyssa, believe it has to be Lyme disease.
“It’s affected her life in every way,” Lori Holt said about her daughter.
Lyme disease is not common in Utah and historically it hasn’t been much of a problem, according to JoDee Baker, an epidemiologist with the Utah Department of Health. She said there’s no local evidence of deer ticks, which is what causes the most concern in Eastern states where Lyme disease is endemic.
But another kind of tick — the Western blacklegged tick — blamed for spreading the infectious disease throughout California, is quite possibly present in Utah. What remains unknown is how prevalent it is.
“There’s no reason to say why ticks wouldn’t migrate across the country like other species of animals and insects do,” Baker said. “It’s entirely possible we do have ticks here that would carry Lyme disease and we want to find them and we want to help people who do have these symptoms to feel better, to get better and to get the appropriate treatment.”
Researchers with the health department and Utah State University are working on updating studies on Lyme disease in Utah. Baker said they are also testing ticks found in different places throughout the state. A report on those measures is due out later this year.
The health department, however, maintains its stance that no locally contracted cases of Lyme disease have been confirmed within the state for quite some time.