Want to find out more about Lyme disease? According to the Maine Center for Disease Control, in 1997 there were 34 reported cases of Lyme disease; in 2007, there were 529.

Megan Kelly, a Maine CDC epidemiologist, will lead a discussion about Lyme disease, including a question-and-answer period, at 6 p.m., Wednesday, June 9, at the Waldo County General Hospital Education Center.

Most at risk are people who spend time in brushy or wooded areas. Lyme disease is caused by bacteria spread by ticks and people can get it if they are bitten by an infected tick. But not everyone who is bitten by a tick will get Lyme disease. Infected ticks usually don’t give their hosts Lyme disease until they have been attached for at least 36 hours, so it’s important to remove ticks as soon as they are noticed.

However, people can be infected by a deer tick in fewer than 24 hours, especially if, when the tick is removed, its body is squeezed and Lyme germs are injected into the person’s body.

One sign of Lyme disease is a round, red rash that spreads at the site of a tick bite. The rash can get very large. But, according to some studies, the rash is thought to occur in only 50 to 80 percent of infected patients. Flu-like symptoms, such as feeling tired, having headaches and sore muscles and joints, and a fever, are also common.

A blood test can check for antibodies that signal the disease, but the tests can be falsely negative. The main treatment for Lyme disease is antibiotics, which usually cure it within weeks of starting treatment. There are, however, some Lyme disease patients who have completed a round of antibiotic treatments and continue to exhibit symptoms. If left untreated, Lyme disease can lead to health problems with joints, the nervous system and heart. And these problems can occur weeks, months and even years after a tick bite.

In an estimated 15 percent of untreated patients, there are acute neurological symptoms, including Bell’s palsy, severe headaches, neck stiffness, shooting pains and abnormal skin sensations. If left untreated, after several months, symptoms have progressed in some patients to include concentration and short-term memory problems and profound fatigue.

Lyme disease may be misdiagnosed as multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis because of the similar symptoms.

In fact, the disease got its name from a group of children who lived near each other in Lyme, Conn. In 1975, they all had been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Researchers later discovered there was a bacterial cause for the children’s condition and in 1982 it became known as Lyme disease.

For Barbara Crowley of Hampden, the symptoms included feeling fatigued and having aching joints. In her 20s in the early 1980s, Crowley worked in California helping with fish bed restorations, which meant traveling on old logging roads. She knew she was being exposed to ticks and did regular checks but she was not aware of Lyme disease.

Later, while working at a seasonal job in Alaska, she said she felt tired all the time, her joints ached and she just “didn’t feel right.” After returning home, a vendor at a crafts fair told Crowley about Lyme disease. Crowley went to a clinic and was checked out but was told she didn’t have Lyme disease, that her complaints were all in her head. Crowley insisted on having a blood test and it turned out she did have Lyme disease.

Crowley received antibiotic treatment and eventually felt better. She said, though, she doesn’t believe she has fully recovered the “get-up-and-go” she once had. Crowley said she is vigilant now about checking for ticks because she understands the consequences.

To learn more about the consequences, people are invited to attend Kelly’s talk. For more information, contact Vyvyenne Ritchie of Healthy Waldo County, at 930-6761