Despite perception, Lyme disease a threat in Texas

AUSTIN (KXAN) — There’s a perception that you can’t catch Lyme disease in Texas. Experts say that’s simply not true and it’s a message they’re trying to get out as the weather gets warmer and more people start to venture outdoors.

“We may not have as many cases as you’d find in east or Midwestern United States, but it’s definitely not zero,” said Dr. Maria Esteve-Gassent, Veterinary Professor at Texas A&M University.

In fact, the Austin Travis County Health and Human Services Department says there were six cases in 2013. None have been reported so far this year.

At a Texas A&M lab, Esteve-Gassent tests ticks for Lyme disease. She’s looking for where it comes from and how it spreads in Texas.

“This is a disease that can be prevented really easily but most of the people don’t think they can get it and that’s where the problem comes,” said Esteve-Gassent.

Ticks spread Lyme disease. There are several steps you can take to prevent getting Lyme disease. If you do venture out into wooded areas with tall grass and bushes, the Centers for Disease Control say you should use bug repellent that contains 20 to 30 percent DEET. That’s the main ingredient in keeping bugs off of you.

If you find a tick on your body, do not try to smash it. You need to use tweezers to put the whole tick off. Esteve-Gassent says if you remove ticks right away, you’re at low risk from contracting the infection.

Lyme disease shows up as flu-like symptoms, fever, muscle pain and fatigue. Untreated, it can spread to your joints, heart and nervous system.

It’s something Austin resident, Jay, knows too well. He says he contracted it from a tick bite just months after moving to Austin in 1984.

“I remember waking up one day and man all my joints were locked up and stuff and I just couldn’t get out of bed,” said Jay.

Jay says it took more than a decade to pinpoint what was wrong. Now, three decades later he says he’s still taking medication for its effects.

“It’s a serious disease and it will seriously impact your life,” said Jay.

If you want any ticks you find tested, Esteve-Gassent says send then to the Lyme Lab at Texas A&M.

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