LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - Lyme disease is an infectious disease carried by a black legged tick that affects around 300,000 people each year across the United States. The tick-borne illness is rare in Arkansas but the Department of Health (ADH) confirmed two cases in the Natural State on Thursday.
Lindsey Mears is one Arkansan that lives with Lyme disease. Growing up in the country, she was used getting bit by ticks. She would go camping every Memorial Day, disposing of ticks the proper way everytime.
“You get a tick bite, you take it out properly, you get the head out and clean it," Mears said. "Well, this tick bite was different because within hours it was huge and swollen.”
For 11 months, Mears was house bound and most days bed bound after that tick bite. She went to doctor after doctor and couldn't get help. They told her they did the proper testing that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) asked of them and she was negative.
So, Mears decided to take her illness into her owns hands. She sent her blood work to a lab in California and she said the results came back "100 percent certain I had tested positive for Lyme disease."
The Arkansas Department of Health reports a high number of tick-borne cases in the state, but say Lyme disease is rare in Arkansas.
“We've had a few Lyme disease cases reported over the last 20 to 30 years,” said Dirk Haselow, an epidemiologist with the ADH.
In fact, 2007 is the last year a case was reported in the Natural State.
“We've had two individuals meet that case definition so we thought it was worth reporting,” he said.
Mears believes the state's numbers could be wrong. She thinks Arkansas has a problem with the way they test for Lyme disease, saying it's "at best 50 percent accurate."
"Do you think that those ticks that are infected with Lyme get to Arkansas state line and go, 'Oh, no, we're turning around it's Arkansas?' That's just not possible,” Mears said.
She said everyone deserves a proper diagnosis and thinks that once the testing has changed, more Arkansans are going to be added to that list.
Some tips to keep yourself protected; always check yourself after being outside and if you do find a tick be sure to remove the head of the tick.