A Lyme Disease Warning From The CDC

To look at Alita Lyons today, and some old photographs of her, you can't tell that she is suffering from a debilitating disease. But she has had Lyme disease for two decades.

"It gave me this terrible insomnia," said Lyons.

Lyme disease is carried by tiny deer ticks. It often goes undetected for years and can be difficult to diagnose.

"I went to, I would say, over 20 doctors, complaining about these symptoms and nobody had a good diagnosis and nobody tested me for Lyme disease until a doctor finally did it in 2003," said Lyons.

And Lyme disease is on the rise, according to the Centers for Disease Control. From over 9,400 cases a year in 1991, the annual reported cases more than doubled to 23,000 by 2005, reports CBS News correspondent Randall Pinkston.

Which begs the question: Is more Lyme disease being spread or are people reporting more cases?

"Well, I think both are true — the public is definitely more knowledgeable about Lyme disease today than they were in 1991," said Dr. Brian Fallon of the Columbia University Medical Center.

Lyme disease is a bacteria named for the Connecticut town where it was first discovered three decades ago. But it's spread far from there by the ticks, which are carried by deer, mice and even birds.

Lyme disease is concentrated in 10 states, mostly in the Northeast and around the Great Lakes.

Typically, the first symptom is a red bull's eye rash. But sometimes there are no apparent symptoms. If it's not treated early, it can progress into a debilitating condition, as it did with Alita Lyons until she got heavy doses of antibiotics.

"We switched around antibiotics and found one that's really starting to make me feel better," Lyons said recently.

While public awareness is up, the Centers for Disease Control believes Lyme disease is still underreported by more than 200,000 cases a year. Experts want the federal government to provide at least $100 million for research.

Visit www.lymediseaseassociation.org for more information about Lyme disease.