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May and June bring uptick in Lyme disease cases

STILLWATER, Minn. — It is around this time of year that Dr. William Manzel starts seeing a sizable increase in the number of patients with suspected Lyme disease. May and June typically mark the uptick in Lyme disease cases, since that's when the small nymph stage of the tick is prevalent.

"You could stay inside all summer, but that's not really feasible," said Manzel, a family medicine doctor with Stillwater Medical Group. "I recommend covering up with pants and sleeves and wearing bug spray and repellent. Check yourself all over for ticks when you return inside."

Bill Johnson, the owner and copywriter of the Stillwater-based WordWizards, visited Manzel last summer when his health started to suffer a few weeks after a canoeing trip at William O'Brien State Park. He experienced off-and-on fevers, terrible pain in his back and mid-section and red patches on his head and torso and finally hit rock bottom during a camping trip.

"We were there for a festival, but I wasn't feeling very festive," Johnson said. "I spent most of the time just lying down, though I couldn't lie in one position very long because of the pain. I had night sweats, too."

Manzel suspected Lyme disease and immediately started Bill on a three-week course of antibiotics. In its early stages, Lyme disease is often curable. Left untreated, it can have serious complications such as chronic joint inflammation, neurological symptoms, cognitive defects and irregular heart rhythm.

Tips for avoiding Lyme disease:

• Cover up with pants and long sleeves when outdoors, especially in wooded areas.

• Wear bug spray and repellent.

• Check yourself head to toe when you come inside.

• If you find a tick attached, remove it. Remember, it is the deer ticks which cause Lyme disease.

• The tick must be attached for more than 36 hours to transmit the bacteria that cause Lyme disease.

• Don't stress; even if a tick is attached for more than 36 hours, there is still only a 3 percent chance of developing Lyme disease. And, even if you're not yet showing any symptoms, you can start antibiotics as a preventative. They will cut your chances of developing the condition in half again.