As fate would have it, 2020, the year of the coronavirus, marks the 45th anniversary of another dreaded illness, Lyme disease.
Lyme disease was diagnosed for the first time in 1975 in Old Lyme, Connecticut. It was originally mistaken for juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. We now know it is much more than that.
Preoccupied with coronavirus prevention, we might be overlooking the more familiar threat of Lyme disease. That is the message from local health officials, who are urging the public to be vigilant about detecting the symptoms of Lyme disease, which easily can be mistaken for COVID-19.
The parallels between Lyme symptoms and coronavirus symptoms can be striking. As a result, some people who contract Lyme disease try to get tested for COVID-19, believing that is what they have developed.
Getting tested for COVID-19 is a good strategy for ruling out coronavirus as a source of symptoms, but Columbia and Greene health officials are urging the public to remember that Lyme disease is still with us.
Typical symptoms of Lyme disease include fever, headache, fatigue and a characteristic skin rash, with symptoms appearing three to 30 days after the bite of an infected deer tick. Lyme disease often strikes with flu-like symptoms, but not everyone has the same reaction, which is why it is critical to seek immediate medical attention.
COVID-19 symptoms differ widely, but the most common indications of a coronavirus infection are fever, muscle or body aches, headache, shortness of breath or nausea and vomiting, with symptoms appearing two to 14 days after exposure. Flu-like symptoms may not be the result of COVID-19, although COVID-19 is at the top of everyone’s mind at the moment.
Local health officials are sending a clear message to communities still at risk for COVID-19 today and in the future: Don’t forget Lyme disease.