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Geographic Distribution of Ticks in the United States - CDC Maps 2012

From The Redlands Daily News

Tick took away her high school time

Staff Writer

REDLANDS Tiffany Smith was an average teenager, singing, practicing the piano and playing tennis at Arrowhead Christian Academy,
when a bite from a 
tick five years ago changed her life.

Today, she is one of thousands afflicted with Lyme disease, a debilitating disorder with many symptoms. The disease forced Tiffany to
miss almost all four years of high school. She also had to endure countless MRIs, spinal taps, and blood tests before her ailment was finally
diagnosed over a year after she was

Like Tiffany a few years ago, countless people are suffering from unknown maladies, which with a little more information could correctly
be diagnosed as Lyme Disease. This is what California Lyme Disease Association members are hoping to combat.

May 4 through 10 marks the first Lyme Disease Awareness Week, which the association was instrumental in organizing. While Lyme
disease-carrying ticks have been reported in all but two counties in California (Alpine and Modoc), many doctors are unfamiliar with the
disease. "Lyme awareness, education, and prevention is a critical public health issue," according to the association.

Lyme disease occurs world-wide and is a "hidden epidemic in California," according to association President Phyllis Mervine. Next to
AIDS, it is the fastest-growing disease in the United States.

Farmers, ranchers, foresters and others who work outdoors, in addition to those who are outdoors recreationally, are at high risk for
acquiring Lyme disease. Birds, mice, and other animals found in cities can carry ticks, leaving urban areas at risk as well.

Lyme disease was first recognized in Lyme, Conn., in 1975. It has since become the most frequently reported vector-borne disease
in the United States. During 2002, 23,763 cases were recorded by the Centers for Disease Control. Twenty-five percent of Lyme patients
reported nationwide are children under 15.

Lyme disease is called "the great imitator" because it takes on the symptoms of several other diseases. Common symptoms include fever,
 fatigue, arthritis, arrhythmia, cognitive dysfunction, headache, swollen glands and aching muscles.

Tiffany had more than 30 symptoms of the disease, according to her mother, Carol Smith, the San Bernardino County contact person for
the association.

"She was having horrible headaches and couldn't focus on anything," Carol said. "Her joints began to ache and she couldn't hold up her tennis racket.
She tried to go to school but it was too hard."

Also, Lyme disease can be complicated by additional infections. Ticks in California may also carry ehrlichia, a disease that infects horses;
babesia, a malaria-like parasite that infects red blood cells; and tularemia, or rabbit fever, which is a potential bioterrorism agent.

The painless bite of a poppy-seed-sized nymphal tick is the most common cause of human cases. Half of those suffering from Lyme disease
do not recall a bite. "Nymphs hatch out in late spring," Mervine explained. "They are common in leaf litter under deciduous trees, especially
under oaks or where mice are numerous. Sitting on downed logs is especially risky, since nymphal ticks climb up on them."

This is exactly how Tiffany was infected. At the age of 14, while attending a church camp, Tiffany sat on a log, and was treated for what
the nurse believed was a splinter. Her symptoms appeared a few months later. She wasn't correctly diagnosed with Lyme disease until
she was 15 1/2.

Prevention is key to avoiding Lyme disease. First, avoid tick-infested areas. Wear white clothes, so the tiny, dark ticks can be visible.
Also, wear long sleeves, socks and a hat, and tuck shirts into pants, and pants into boots. Wash clothing thoroughly after being exposed to ticks,
and apply DEET repellent, such as Skintastic or Off, to skin not covered by clothing.

In the event of a tick bite, grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible with tweezers or a special tick-removing tool, and pull it
straight out. Avoid getting fluids from the tick on bare skin. Disinfect the bite site, and if possible, save the tick for testing. Watch the area
for several weeks in the event of a rash developing, and contact your physician.

Today, thanks to treatment, Tiffany is feeling much better than when she was still undiagnosed.

"I couldn't have survived without the support of my family, my friends and my church," she said. "It was hard at the beginning,
because everything was going downhill and nothing checked out. We hit a lot of dead ends. It was like living in a nightmare."

She plans on getting her GED within the next year, and is leaning toward attending Abilene Christian University in Texas, where
she will major in music. She is now taking private voice lessons and wants to someday write film scores or Christian songs.

Both Tiffany and Carol hope that Lyme Disease Awareness Week spreads the word about a misunderstood disease to an
uninformed population.

"We don't want anyone else to go through this," said Carol. "We really want to spread the word."
Information: CALDA at , Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at
or e-mail Carol Smith at