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Elizabeth Large Featured in Press Democrat Article on Lyme Disease

Lucia Montiel, 9, uses a wheelchair to move around her Sonoma coast home since being diagnosed with Lyme disease (John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

Lucia Montiel, 9, uses a wheelchair to move around her Sonoma coast home since being diagnosed with Lyme disease (John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

Lyme disease leaves victims frustrated, searching for answers

Excerpted from an article by MARTIN ESPINOZA
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT | May 18, 2017

Treating these infections is like working in the dark,” said Large, adding that ticks can cause multiple infections. “You’re looking to find the light switch. Hopefully, the more you treat, you start to get a clearer picture of the infections the patient has.

Although tick activity is high in the spring and early summer, ticks are active yearlong, Holbrook ( Sonoma County deputy health officer) said. County officials said Lyme disease is endemic in Sonoma County, with 81 cases between 2005 and 2014, which meets the surveillance case definition under CDC standards.

That figure, however, is a “gross underrepresentation” of the number of Lyme and associated diseases in the county, said Elizabeth Large, a naturopathic physician with Eric Gordon Medical Associates, a Santa Rosa-based practice that specializes in treating chronic disorders such as Lyme disease, arthritis and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Based on the volume of patients seen by her practice, Large said, the number of Lyme infections and associated co-infections during that 10-year period is probably in “the thousands.”

She said determining whether someone has Lyme disease is based on a clinical diagnosis, one that takes into account the totality of patients’ symptoms and their medical history. Earlier this week, Large, who has expertise in pediatric Lyme, saw Luccia for the first time at her medical office in northeast Santa Rosa. Luccia’s grandmother and mother discussed the once-active girl’s medical history, including her bout with the illness and the battery of tests and treatments she’s undergone since February.

“She sometimes can’t tell you what she’s had for breakfast,” Zablocki said.

Luccia was bit in the head by a tick in kindergarten in 2013, but the tick was not properly removed. Its body was removed, but the head was left attached, Zablocki said, adding that the girl was also bit by a tick last summer but that tick was removed.

In most cases, the western blacklegged tick must be attached for 36 to 48 hours before the Lyme disease bacterium can be transmitted, according to the CDC. The disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and a characteristic skin rash that looks like a bullseye.

Untreated, the infection can spread to joints, the nervous system and the heart. The CDC says Lyme disease is diagnosed through symptoms, the appearance of such things as a rash and a history of exposure to infected ticks.

After her examination of Luccia, Large said the girl’s varying symptoms pointed to both Lyme and a different infection caused by the bacterium Bartonella, and she changed up the mix of antibiotics.

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