Feature Archive

Worried About Lyme Disease?

Take precautions.

WebMD Feature

June 26, 2000 -- When Duchess County, New York, resident Sally picked up 14-year-old Amy from a summer program last year, she noticed that her daughter seemed unusually fatigued. A couple of weeks later, Sally was shocked to discover that the side of Amy's face had begun drooping. Sally immediately suspected what her doctor confirmed: Despite having taken what the family thought were adequate precautions against ticks, the girl had developed facial nerve palsy, a symptom of untreated Lyme disease.

While numbers are on the rise among all age groups, the increase is particularly worrisome to people with children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that the percentage of Lyme sufferers under age 16 -- one of the groups that spend the most time outdoors and have the highest rate of diagnosis -- has been gradually rising, from 21.7% in 1992 to 26.1% in 1998. "It's definitely an issue, especially for people whose houses are near wooded areas," says Lisa, a mother of two in suburban New Jersey. "Parents see it as a real problem."

The disease is also a growing concern to people living in the most heavily affected regions of the country -- the Northeast and upper Midwest -- though epidemiologists have confirmed cases in nearly every state. "In the last several years, the numbers have ranged between 12,000 and 16,000," says David T. Dennis, MD, coordinator of the Lyme Disease Program at the CDC.