disease usually responds well to antibiotics
Chico Enterprise-Record (Chico, CA) –
Thursday, April 6, 2000
Author: LARRY MITCHELL – Staff Writer
Lyme disease shouldn’t scare Northern Californians, an expert on
said in Chico on Wednesday.
It’s true Butte County is one of five places where most of California’s
has been reported lately, Dr. Chinh Le pointed out during a lecture to
But people should be able to protect themselves against the disease,
caused by the
bite of certain ticks, he said. And even if they should get the
illness, only rarely is it
impossible to cure.
Le, a Santa Rosa physician who has worked on Lyme disease for the U.S.
Centers for Disease Control, was guest speaker at a noon
forum sponsored by the
Butte County Health Department and Enloe Medical Center.
He spoke to more than 100 health professionals at Enloe’s Esplanade
He said new cases of Lyme disease almost always respond well to
he said almost all chronic cases can be cured, also. He suggested some
they have chronic Lyme may in fact have other ailments, and they should
Le is chair for infectious diseases at Kaiser Medical Center in Santa
County and also Butte, Humboldt, Mendocino and San Diego counties have
most of the state’s Lyme disease cases over the last few years. Butte
the state, with 89 cases since 1996. Humboldt is second, with 60 cases
in that period,
followed by Sonoma with 54, San Diego with 32 and Mendocino with 29.
Butte County tops the list because of a “spike” of 53 cases reported in
1997. Since then,
the numbers have tapered off. Thirteen cases were reported in 1998, and
reported last year. So far, one case has been reported this year. This
what’s been seen in other north-state counties where Lyme disease is
Le said. People will suddenly become aware of Lyme disease , and a
bunch of chronic
cases will be diagnosed, he said. In following years, the numbers taper
Le and Dr. Mark Lundberg, Butte County’s health officer, noted chronic
remains controversial. Lundberg said local physicians feel compassion
for those who
believe they have chronic Lyme . They also feel frustrated at being
unable to help many
of these patients. Most of the cases reported in Butte County have been
chronic – that
is, patients have suffered symptoms for a number of years before being
Lyme disease . Lundberg noted most local cases have been reported by a
Asked about chronic Lyme , Le said although the Lyme bacterium can be
he doesn’t believe it can survive onslaughts of antibiotics lasting
several months. It
shouldn’t be necessary for patients to take antibiotics for a year, or
years, he said.
He said in rare cases true chronic Lyme turns into an auto-immune
keeps the patient feeling ill.
But in other cases, people who believe they have chronic Lyme probably
other ailment that ought to be addressed, he said. It’s a disservice if
providers keep focusing on Lyme , when the patient really may be
multiple sclerosis or depression, he said.
Determining if someone has chronic Lyme should be quite clear-cut, he
should turn up objective findings, such as memory loss, neurologic
antibodies in the spinal fluid.
In spring, the Western black-legged tick, which can carry Lyme disease
, is most
active. Le recommended taking precautions. If you go hiking in brushy,
country, go at mid-day when the ticks are less active, he said. Hike in
of the trail, and wear light-colored clothing so it’s easier to see a
tick if it gets on
you. Repellent may be helpful, he said.
As for the new vaccine, it appears to work, but long-term side effects
For that reason, as well as the expense, probably only those who are
tick country should consider being vaccinated, he said.
It’s important to look for ticks after you’ve been out in nature and
remove them if
you find them, he said. It’s probably useless to have a tick tested if
you think it bit
you. A tick has to be embedded in your body for at least 24 hours to
disease . The best thing to do if you believe you’ve been bitten is
watch for symptoms,
like the characteristic rash and a flu-like illness, he said. Then, a
few weeks of
antibiotics will knock out the disease .
“You’re probably very safe in California,” Le said. In the West, Lyme
ticks live in
native grass and brush. In the East, they inhabit those areas and also