Unlike Mark Twain's riposte - "Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated" - reports about Lyme disease have been hugely UNDER-exaggerated.
Last year, we heard that 30,000 people were infected by these tick-borne bacteria. But this year, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention decided to actively collect data from a wider array of sources, they found 300,000 people a year are actually diagnosed with Lyme. And 96 percent of these cases occur in 13 states, from Wisconsin through New England and into Virginia.
There is a Lyme disease vaccine, but in 2002 (when we thought there were only 30,000 cases annually) it was pulled off the market because of low demand and public suspicion about safety, even though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration double-checked and confirmed that its benefits greatly outweighed its minor risks. So, until we have a vaccine, watch for signs of an infected tick bite:
70 percent to 80 percent of the time, Lyme causes a red, expanding rash (erythema migrans) around the bite site.
Other symptoms include fatigue, chills and fever, muscle and joint aches and swollen lymph nodes.
A blood test can diagnose Lyme, and a three-week course of antibiotics usually can K.O. the infection. But better yet: Avoid getting bit. In tick territory, tuck pants legs inside your socks and use a repellant with 10 percent to 30 percent DEET. Not sure? See a doc, so you can start taking the right antibiotic within 48 hours.
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. To live your healthiest, visit sharecare.com. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.