All about prevention

PA has been ranked №1 in reported cases of Lyme disease. This support group is teaching how to stay safe.

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

Five years ago, Evelyn Throne didn’t know what was wrong with herself and her husband. She felt tired and achy while her husband became disoriented and couldn’t find his way out of the mall. After taking a closer look at their symptoms, she figured it out — they had Lyme disease. Since then, Throne has dedicated herself to educating her Langhorne community on prevention with her Bucks County Lyme Disease Support Group.

Statistics with a bite: Lyme disease is a bacterial infection, usually contracted from the bite of a tick. For the past five years, Pennsylvania has been ranked first or second in the most reported cases. PHOTO: PA Lyme Resource Network

The group was formed eight years ago after Throne’s son-in-law had contracted Lyme and had symptoms on and off for a decade. The family had no idea how to help him.

“I didn’t want anyone to feel so alone,” she said.

At the time, the closest Lyme support group was in Doylestown, which was a long distance to travel for many Langhorne residents. So, Throne took it upon herself to create a supportive space closer to home, hosting monthly meetings at the Middletown Township Building.

About six months ago, Throne’s group became part of PA Lyme Resource Network, a statewide organization founded in 2012 committed to education, patient advocacy, support and prevention of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. According to Throne, her group gained much credibility after getting involved with PA Lyme, the preferred vendor for prevention information.

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection, usually contracted from the bite of a tick. Though it’s not something you hear about often, compared to the Zika virus, the statistics from PA Lyme are alarming. Pennsylvania has been ranked №1 or №2 in cases of Lyme disease for more than five years, Bucks County is the fifth-most affected county, and a study in a national park in northeast Pennsylvania revealed 63 percent of ticks were infected with Lyme. Last year in the state, there were 120,000 cases of Lyme reported, but no cases of Zika.

Also according to PA Lyme, children ages 5–14 are at the highest risk of contracting the disease, and several studies have connected Lyme to autistic spectrum disorder. Common symptoms in children include fatigue, ADD/ADHD, decreased attention span, outbursts and difficulty making decisions.

As for adults, symptoms vary by case and person, but can include fever, facial paralysis, extreme fatigue, stomach, head and joint aches, insomnia, and swollen glands, just to name a few. So how can locals avoid this disease? According to Throne, it’s all about prevention, being aware of the risks and symptoms and catching them early.

“You don’t have to cure what you don’t get,” she said.

At her monthly support meetings, Throne shares tips and tricks to repel those unwanted critters: spray your skin with products made with 20 percent picaridin (such as Sawyers Fisherman’s Formula) or lemon eucalyptus; spray your shoes monthly with .05 percent permethrin-sawyer spray, which is available at many stores; spray your clothes inside and out with permethrin; purchase pre-treated clothing from insectshield.com, bugbewear.com or at a sporting goods store; and most importantly, wear insect shield socks, which Throne always keeps handy in her pocketbook.

Also important is avoiding brushy areas with tall grass, which Throne explained attracts the ticks. If someone does need to go into one of these risky locations, their clothes should be put in the dryer for 15 minutes afterward to kill any potential ticks, and then washed afterward. The core season for Lyme is April-October, so Throne advises for extra precautions during these months.

The Bucks County Lyme Disease Support Group meets in the Middletown Township Building the third Sunday of each month. For more information, email Throne at buckslyme@gmail.com. For information on ticks, visit tickencounter.org. For additional prevention tips, visit palyme.org. ••