Lyme Disease or COVID-19? Local doctor says knowing the difference is key

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WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) Lyme disease is once again emerging but this year, the summertime threat is happening in the middle of a growing coronavirus pandemic.

The CDC estimates more than 300,000 cases of Lyme disease each year, including many in Pennsylvania. Getting an accurate diagnosis is being made more difficult this year because of some similarities with COVID-19.

Deer ticks, often smaller than the head of a pin, can cause big problems with your health by giving you Lyme disease.

“We all know Lyme disease mimics a lot of other illnesses,” Pragya Dhaubhadel, MD, an infectious diseases specialist at Geisinger told Eyewitness News.

Experts say that both Lyme and COVID-19 can cause fever and chills, fatigue and body aches. Unlike Lyme disease, COVID-19 is known for its respiratory problems like coughing and shortness of breath.

Since many of us have developed interests like camping, hiking and gardening, Dr. Dhaubhadel says we need to ask ourselves some questions about why we may be feeling ill.

“What did we do? Where did we go? Were we at risk for any tick bites in the activities we did?” Dhaubahadel explained.

Left untreated, Lyme can lead to facial paralysis, arthritis, and concentration problems while wreaking havoc with your immune system. It’s why getting the proper diagnosis and treatment are so crucial.

“Because we do an antibody test for Lyme disease, it may take four to six weeks for the test to be positive. So we do not want people to wait until your symptoms get worse,” Dhaubhadel said.

Dr. Dhaubhadel stresses when it comes to Lyme disease, prevention is better than cure. Dress properly going into the woods by covering your bare skin and use repellent that contains 20 percent DEET. When you get home, it is important to make sure you look for any ticks that might be on your body.

“If you don’t have anyone at home who can examine the back then take a hot shower,” Dhaubhadel said.

Dhaubhadel says you should also consider walking in the middle of a trail and not touching shrubs or bushes where Lyme disease carrying deer ticks are known to lurk. 

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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