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HealthWatch: Lyme Disease

NEW YORK (CBS 2) -- The Tri-State Area is a hot spot for Lyme disease, yet many sufferers go undiagnosed. CBS 2HD's Dr. Holly Phillips brings us one young woman who struggled for nearly a decade and is now finally fighting back.

Rose K. Murphy, 35, can recall the day she now believes she was infected with Lyme disease. "I thought it was the flu, so I just stayed home and rested. About two months later I started having wrist problems."

For nearly eight years she went undiagnosed, and her wrist problems got worse, She developed pain throughout her body and one day she just couldn't function anymore.

"I was at work and I collapsed. And within two and three weeks I couldn't move my legs and I couldn't stand up," she said.

Dr. Jeffrey Morrison is a Lyme disease expert. He said although Murphy's case seemed severe, he's seeing more and more patients in her predicament.

"Lyme disease is probably the most rapidly growing vector born illness in the United States. There's at least 30,000 new cases reported for Lyme disease every year," Morrison said.

The disease is transmitted when a person is bitten by a deer tick. Some people get a tell-tale bullseye rash right away and can get treated immediately, but many don't.

Lyme disease is notoriously difficult to diagnose. That's because its symptoms mimic many other illnesses. And although a tick bite is a great clue of the diagnosis, most Lyme sufferers can't remember ever being bitten.

"Ticks are not easy to see on our body. They're very small and they actually look like freckles so it's easy for them to disguise themselves," Morrison said.

Spring and summer are common times for people to get bitten, and now during the fall, Lyme sufferers may start to feel symptoms including achy joints, severe fatigue, memory loss and headaches.

Murphy wishes she had recognized the signs earlier. "I was really depressed between, I had gone from working a lot and having a job I love to not being able to get out of bed."

Now she's on the road to recovery. She gets IV antibiotics four days a week, and doesn't want anyone else to go through what she did.

"Take it seriously when you have physical problems," she said. "Find out what they are."

A better understanding of this serious illness could go a long way. Lyme disease can be diagnosed by a blood test, but some doctors only provide treatment based on symptoms, even if the blood tests come back negative.

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