- "This disease is called the great imitator for a good reason," says Jeff Waite.
Lyme disease can be good at hiding.
"Lyme disease is a bacterial type infection spread by a spiral keet, which is also considered a parasite. And it can be carried in the spit glands and intestinal track of ticks in this area. Particularly the deer tick," said Dr. Kurt Landauer.
Lyme disease can be a debilitating disease if left untreated. Northwoods father, Jeff Waite, knows that well. His daughter, Jennifer, got Lyme disease in 2003. Test results came back negative so she went untreated for years.
"The bacteria had had its way with her body for two and a half years and ended up getting into her brain and doing damage to her nervous system," said Jeff Waite.
Jennifer still battles with the disease.
So what's the best way to avoid going through what Jennifer went through? ... Staying informed.
"Knowing what the symptoms are is a must up here in the Northwoods. Because, you know, a lot of times you'll get bit by a tick and you won't even know it," says Jeff Waite.
Ticks that carry the disease are as small as a poppy seed. Checking your body for ticks is a good idea after walking in the woods. But you don't always catch every one. Watching for symptoms is often your only sign of Lyme disease.
"Symptoms to watch for are like a bad summer flu. Headaches, fevers, muscle aches and during the ticks season, I consider that Lyme disease unless I have something else to blame it on," says Dr. Landauer.
But not every tick carries Lyme disease. Most ticks need to be drawing your blood for 24 hours before the bacteria can be transferred. However, Wisconsin is still among the top ranking states for the disease. Northern Wisconsin is no exception.
"It's definitely a problem up here. We see a lot of Lyme's and mostly it's presumed Lyme's." –7 sec, Dr. Landauer.
Often the illness is only presumed Lyme's because the disease is hard to test for. That's why doctors stress knowing the symptoms.
"Be vigilant and think Lyme disease because typically, it's not confirmed in any way. It's a disease of symptoms, suspicion, and findings," said Dr. Landauer.
And that's why Jeff Waite takes so much time to educate kids … who spend lots of time outside. Because of his daughter's disease, Jeff commits his time to speaking with students.
"The kids are great, you know, they soak it up. There's not one of them that doesn't know someone who has had Lyme disease," says Jeff Waite.
But that doesn't mean we need to live in fear if we're well informed.
"The main thing is get outside, have a good time, check for ticks every day, and watch for the symptoms," says Dr. Landauer.
Those steps can help you avoid getting Lyme disease like Jeff's daughter Jennifer did.
Center for Disease Control
Story By: Melissa Constanzer