Lyme Disease cases among children up dramatically


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This is the first in a two-part series on Lyme Disease. To see the second story, click here.

When 9-year-old Hunter Sauers, of Mifflinburg, complained of joint pain early this past summer, his family assumed it was from the normal wear-and-tear of a growing young boy at the tail end of his baseball season.

And when the headaches began, his mother, Nina, attributed it to him needing new glasses.

“It was the summertime and he was a growing boy playing baseball and being active,” she said. “But then he developed a ring-like rash. Then it turned into several rings and it was treated like ringworm. But the antifungal cream didn’t work. Soon the rash was running from head to toe.”

Meanwhile, Hunter’s other symptoms intensified, as well.

“My stomach wasn’t feeling that well. My knees hurt and I had a lot of headaches. I was really tired all of the time,” he said. “When I started getting sick to my stomach and the rash got worse, we figured it was more than a cold or the flu.”

So the Sauers family returned to Lewisburg Pediatrics where Dr. Elam Stoltzfus and his colleagues officially diagnosed Hunter with having Lyme Disease.

“We never saw a tick, but we were told that sometimes you don’t — that tiny nymph stage ticks can be a small as a piece of pepper,” Nina said. “It is amazing that something so tiny can have that big of an effect.”

A ‘significant increase’

According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the state of Pennsylvania had 4,146 confirmed cases of Lyme Disease in 2012 — higher than any other state in the country.

And 2013 could be much worse according to local medical providers.

“Cases of Lyme Disease in our office have significantly increased,” said Dr. Stoltzfus. “We had more cases this past summer than all the previous years before.”

Dr. Michael Ryan, chairman of Geisinger’s Janet Weis Children’s Hospital, said that this was the worst year he’s seen for Lyme Disease among pediatric patients (under the age of 18) in his more than 33 years at Geisinger Medical Center.

Dr. Ryan typically sees approximately 200 cases of Lyme Disease per year, but he reports that he has seen more than 500 cases so far in 2013. He did relay that all pediatric patients were cured of their infections.

Blame it on the bacteria

“Lyme Disease is a bacterial infection. Some people seem to forget that. They think it is much more,” said Dr. Lisa Esolen, system medical director of infection prevention and control for Geisinger Health System. “The bacteria is transmitted from the bite of a deer tick — not other ticks.”

Not all deer ticks carry the Lyme Disease bacteria, and according to Dr. Stoltzfus, it can take quite a while for an infected tick to transmit the disease.

“It takes at least 48 to 72 hours after the tick first comes in contact with the skin. The tick ingests blood from the person, and it inadvertently regurgitates some of the bacteria into the blood stream,” he said. “If we get a kid who’s been exposed to a tick for 12 to 24 hours, there is practically no risk that they have Lyme Disease.

“A lot of people panic when they see a tick on their skin, but there usually isn’t a reason to panic.”

Lyme Disease has been known to cause a variety of symptoms in people depending on how long they have been infected.

“After first being exposed, you may feel a fever, fatigue and achiness like you are coming down with something. A bullseye-like skin rash may develop in about 70 percent of cases,” said Dr. Esolen. “Lyme Disease can also affect the joints and nervous system. Joints can become swollen, painful and red. In some cases, it can also cause bells palsy, where part of your face can become paralyzed.”

Antibiotics are the answer

Since Lyme Disease is caused via a bacteria, treatment typically comes in the form of high doses of antibiotics.

In Hunter’s case, it was 1500 mg of Amoxicillin daily for a month. For Duane Knopp, of rural Turbotville, the treatment was a little more intense after a number of misdiagnoses after his 2009 infection of Lyme Disease.

“We had to be very persistent with the emergency rooms and doctors,” his wife, Sandy, said. “They acted as if this was a typical flu, but I live with him every day. I knew it was something more. I had that gut feeling that something was really wrong.”

Part of Duane’s treatment included four weeks of medication fed daily into a tube that ran through one of his veins directly into his heart.

“The key is to remember that Lyme Disease is a bacteria infection and that it can be treated,” said Dr. Esolen. “If it is properly diagnosed and properly treated, you will be fine.”

Preventable … curable

As for young Hunter Sauers, the regimen of Amoxicillin has seemed to worked. He has resumed doing his favorite outdoor activities.

“I helped my dad put his tree stand up and I’ve gone squirrel hunting,” he said. “I even got a squirrel.”

There is no need to fear the outdoors, according to Dr. Esolen.

“With proper precautions there is very little to worry about in regards to Lyme Disease,” she said.

“There are more health benefits of kids playing outdoors than there are concerns of Lyme Disease. It preventable, completely treatable and curable if someone does get it. That’s what people need to remember.”

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~ by zaktansky on December 14, 2013.

One Response to “Lyme Disease cases among children up dramatically”

  1. […] This is the second of a two-part series on Lyme Disease. To see the first story, click here. […]

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