Why Summertime ‘Flu’ Could Actually Be Lyme Disease

Summer is prime time for tick troubles because nymph ticks are so tiny many people don’t even realize they’ve been bitten. Photo: Global Lyme Alliance

Summer is prime time for tick troubles because nymph ticks are so tiny many people don’t even realize they’ve been bitten. Photo: Global Lyme Alliance

You’re enjoying a wonderful summer—hiking, picnicking, gardening, enjoying the great outdoors.

So why have you suddenly developed a fever, chills, headache, joint and neck pains, and feel totally exhausted?

If you are suffering from a flu-like illness, it could in fact be the beginning of Lyme disease.
“It’s important for people to understand that if they develop flu-like symptoms in the summer—especially within weeks of being in rural or suburban areas—they should see a doctor and get tested for Lyme,” said Scott Santarella, CEO of Global Lyme Alliance (GLA), the leading private nonprofit dedicated to conquering Lyme disease through research and education.
That’s what former “Real Housewives of New Jersey” cast member Amber Marchese discovered recently after posting to her social media followers that she had come down with a summer flu. But after she described her symptoms, a friend suggested Marchese get checked for Lyme disease.  Marchese went to her doctor, got tested, and learned she had the tick-borne illness.
The risk of developing Lyme, a potentially debilitating illness carried by black-legged (deer) ticks, could be greater this summer than ever before. Lyme is now the most commonly reported vector-borne disease in the nation, with 329,000 new cases every year.
Lyme disease-carrying ticks have undergone a population explosion, doubling their range in less than two decades. They are in all 50 states and in more than 80 countries. 
June through August are prime times for tick troubles because the insect-like creatures are in their hungry “nymph” stage. Their tiny size (no larger than a poppy seed) makes them hard to detect on clothing or skin. Because their bite is painless, they can attach to the skin and feed on an individual’s blood—often unnoticed—for days. They also tend to attach to parts of the body that aren’t readily seen, like behind the knee, groin, armpits and scalp.
“Nymphal ticks do seem more active this year, although we haven’t quantified the numbers yet,” said CT State Entomologist Kirby C. Stafford III, Ph.D. Stafford added that people need to be aware that Lyme disease is a constant risk in areas where it is endemic. They should also be aware that deer ticks may carry other pathogens that cause diseases such as anaplasmosis and babesiosis” too.
Many people think they need to see a bull’s-eye rash in order to have Lyme, but less than 50 percent of those infected actually develop one. “Not everyone with Lyme has a rash, so even if the skin looks normal, don’t be deterred from seeking a doctor’s advice if there are flu-like symptoms that last a few days without signs of improvement,” said Santarella.

“These early symptoms could lead to debilitating health problems, eventually affecting the nervous system, brain, joints or heart.” There is currently no fool-proof diagnostic test for Lyme, but to get the most accurate blood testing results possible, ask your physician to use both the ELISA and Western Blot tests.

Global Lyme Alliance is the leading private nonprofit dedicated to conquering Lyme disease through innovative research and education programs. The 501(c)(3) organization is headquartered in Greenwich.


Email news tips to Greenwich Free Press editor Leslie.Yager@GreenwichFreePress.com
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  • Angie Halstead

    I am not a healthcare professional with an alphabet soup of initials after my name. I was an LPN, and I quit work to care for my children. I have four sons and my greatest claim to fame is I am a Mom.

    Last summer my active healthy 18 year old son, got extremely ill. At first he exhibited flu-like symptoms, but they were very extreme, he was in so much pain, so very weak, severe headaches and just extremely exhausted. His doctor and I felt it was Lyme disease, except he did not present with the tell-tale Bulls-eye rash, and Lyme was not “in WV” or so we were told. We had him tested anyway, at three places but the results all came back negative.

    So back to square one, find a diagnosis, so we could treat him. Time was running out, he was getting worse.

    We took him to Morgantown to see a neurologist, he had multiple MRI’s, and nerve conduction studies. All with normal results. About this time his insurance was cancelled due to his age. Since he had an going condition, I worked on getting it reinstated. And in the meantime I took him to a chiropractor, to help build his strength back up. His symptoms were escalating and he was very scared.

    About four months in, his chiropractor just mentioned at one visit, that it really mimicked Lyme, were we positive it wasn’t? Then that evening we saw a news report on Lyme that said in the absence of a rash it was difficult to diagnose Lyme because the blood tests would not show it until the patient had it a month. I immediately made an appointment for another blood test. Sure enough he was positive, on the Lyme titer and the western blot test.

    Hurrah! Now we could cure it, or so I thought.

    The drug of choice was doxycycline, it was harsh and had horrible side effects. But it would cure him, wouldn’t it?

    No, it wouldn’t, in fact it added to his horrible misery, he was hospitalized for chest pain, first of all, which turns out it was a side effect of doxycycline, he had stomach and chest cramping. So he was sent home.

    Then he started stuttering, slurring words and searching for words like a stroke victim. Prompting another hospitalization with a lumbar puncture and an MRI of the head. Another IV antibiotic was added, and these symptoms lessened. Again sent home.
    By December he was walking with a cane, by mid December he started falling when his ankle or hip would just give out on him.

    I was frantic to find a cure! His doctor finally said to me that doctors here would not be able to help, we had to find him help elsewhere, he would help us out however he could but we had to go elsewhere, no one here could help.

    Through a friend I found out about a doctor in Germany who had a high success rate in curing Lyme.

    I came home one afternoon to find my son writhing in pain and decided then and there something had to be done.

    Arrangements were made and we headed to Germany.

    I was nervous that this may be another dead end, but if I hadn’t taken him and it had eventually killed him how could I live with my decision? So off we went leaving my husband and younger sons home, missing them like crazy!

    I wasn’t sure what to expect, but from the moment we arrived we were treated like family by the staff at Infusio Frankfurt. We were ensconced in an apartment, and they stocked the cupboards with a starter kit of healthy foods and we were given a schedule that would start on Monday, so we had the weekend to relax and catch our breath.

    On Monday a car was sent to take us to the beautiful spa-like atmosphere clinic. We were welcomed at the door by the staff, escorted to the lovely waiting area, then the doctor immediately took us back to a treatment room decorated in soothing decor with an extremely comfortable chair for me as well. Treatment began immediately, and we saw results immediately. That evening he was sharper mentally, his severe headaches were much better and his energy was better. This continued each day, when we left, the day after her received his stem cells back, he was feeling much better and gradually was 100% Lyme free.

    My advice to anyone with the symptoms or facing the diagnosis is, fight! Fight for the diagnosis, fight for the cure! You don’t have to live with that misery! It is a myth that Lyme doesn’t exist anywhere but Connecticut, it’s a myth that doxycycline cures it every time, it’s a myth that chronic Lyme does not exist, it’s a myth that you only have Lyme if you have the Bulls-eye rash. Get the help elsewhere exhaust all avenues to find a cure! It’s true that every person is affected differently, it’s true the current testing is lacking – that by the time you find out its become chronic Lyme! It’s true that doxycycline is an archaic antibiotic that has a host of nasty side effects that only serve to make a sick person sicker, it’s true that Lyme is found almost everywhere in the world. It’s true Lyme can kill you! Please please fight!