Lyme disease has been called the great imitator because its symptoms can look like anything from multiple sclerosis and lupus to Alzheimer’s disease or autism. And the U.S. will see more than 300,000 new cases of tick-transmitted disease this year.
University of North Florida epidemiologist Kerry Clark says new research supports the belief that lone star ticks, not deer ticks, are the main carriers of Lyme disease here in the South.
“It’s the most common, aggressive, human-biting tick in this area and we do find evidence of the bacteria in lone star ticks," he said. "So we think we can connect these dots and that eventually the evidence will prove that they are the important vector down here.”
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University said nearly 2/3 of patients with Lyme disease experience symptoms that may be debilitating long after they’ve been treated.
Funding for Lyme disease research is around $24 million annually compared to the nearly $2 billion earmarked for finding a cure for the mosquito-borne Zika virus.
The Lyme Disease Challenge, which asks people to take a selfie while biting into a lime and post it online, is one way the public can help fund the search for a cure.
Editor's note: This article has been modified to more accurately describe the severity of the symptoms suffered by patients with Lyme disease.