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Health: Researchers Find More Ticks, More Lyme Disease

By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) --  Lyme disease is spreading, according to the latest report from the Pennsylvania Health Department. And new research from the University of Pennsylvania shows the ticks that cause it are spreading, too. Health Reporter Stephanie Stahl has the story.

Gary Cyr loves biking in Pennypack Park, but it's a hobby that caused a nasty episode of Lyme disease from a tick bite.

"I actually started to experience paralysis symptoms with my facial muscles. After the paralysis started to settle in, it was two to three days after that I could barely talk," Gary said.

"When I first met Gary, I was actually worried that he had cancer," said Dr. Anne Norris, an infection disease specialist at Penn Medicine who treated Gary.

Dr. Norris says in addition to the usual flu-like symptoms associated with Lyme, some patients develop neurological problems that can last.

"You can get really sick with Lyme, really sick," said Dr. Norris.

New research from the University of Pennsylvania found ticks that carry Lyme disease have moved into all kinds of new locations.

"Anywhere in the tri-state area, you're eligible to get Lyme disease," Dr. Norris said. "You don't need the perfect exposure story to qualify."

Gary never developed the bulls-eye rash commonly associated with Lyme. Dr. Norris says it's more typically a big pink rash that spreads.

Lyme disease is eventually confirmed with a blood test and treated with intravenous antibiotics.

"I didn't think the symptoms would be quite so significant, quite so severe," Gary said.

Gary says it was scary for him and his family. He missed weeks of work, and it took him six months to feel normal again. A little tick can do a lot of damage.

"It sure can," Gary said.

Doctors say the best way to prevent Lyme disease is to keep ticks away with insect repellent when in any grassy areas, and wear long sleeves and pants.


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