By Stephen “Steve” Borgos
I’m a longtime Rotarian from Glens Falls, New York, USA. I taught college-level business administration for 31 years, served as a local elected government official and as executive director of the regional emergency medical service council, and made a part-time occupation of commercial real estate sales into a full-time retirement job. At age 68, I began considering slowing down, but I was still going strong.
Then in the spring of 2010, I began to notice significant changes in my energy and concentration levels. My cognitive function became compromised, to the point where I began to experience trouble navigating my way home after meetings more than a few miles away. There were times when my wife had to accompany me to meetings to respond to simple questions, because I couldn’t find words to answer for myself. I realized that what I had thought were simply natural changes due to aging might be something else.
Within 10 days of visiting my doctor, I was diagnosed with Lyme disease, an infectious disease caused by bacteria of the Borrelia type transmitted through the bite of a tick. I could remember getting a number of bites in the past, but I hadn’t paid much attention, as the test results were always negative. (The common blood tests for Lyme are notoriously inaccurate.) But this time, tests, and an expanding bull’s-eye rash that can be a telltale sign of the disease, confirmed the infection. After several years of expensive antibiotic treatments, my Lyme disease seems to be under control.
Lyme disease and the insidious co-infections that cause serious illness are a major public health concern that will challenge our health and our health care system if we don’t get a much better handle on them now. There are about 300,000 new cases each year in the United States, and about 30 percent of those develop into long-term or chronic illness. The current levels of education and attention to this disease are inadequate. Recent research at Johns Hopkins, a major medical research institution, indicated that $1.3 billion are spent to attend to patients with Lyme disease each year.
My Rotary club recently established a special committee to increase public awareness of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. Join us in this effort by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you have a Lyme disease story?