NEWS10 Special Report: Lyme Life - NEWS10 ABC: Albany, New York News, Weather, Sports

NEWS10 Special Report: Lyme Life


ALBANY, N.Y. -- May is Lyme disease awareness month, and the warmer weather is prime time for Lyme, which affects more people in the northeast than anywhere else in the country.

Many think Lyme disease has a simple cure, but NEWS10 ABC’s Stephanie Grady found that it isn't so cut and dry, and there seems to be a kind of silent epidemic.

When the alarm goes off at 4:31, Missy Gallagher's nightmare is no dream at all. Her body is a prison dictated by her symptoms and the medicine she takes.

“You just want to curl into the fetal position and you just cry,” she said.

She says a deer tick bite four years ago changed her life forever.

Lyme disease was first discovered in the mid-1970s in Old Lyme, Connecticut. The mysterious illness created panic, making it a time tough to forget for the town's historian, Dr. John Pfeiffer.

“People were scared, and when people are scared they don't always listen to the most reasonable of explanations,” he said.

One explanation is Plum Island, the place some believe the tick-borne disease was manufactured by German scientists working for the U.S. government on germ warfare post WWII. The facility is only a few miles from where the disease first popped up.

But the Homeland Security website simply states that Plum Island Animal Disease Center, “does not, and has not performed research on Lyme disease."

The award winning film "Under Our Skin" delves into the hotly contested world of chronic Lyme disease -- an ongoing Lyme infection the traditional medical community says doesn't exist.

Because the Infectious Diseases Society of America, the CDC, and the National Institutes of Health don't acknowledge this chronic form of the disease, they warn against the controversial treatment methods like long-term antibiotic use -- something many chronic Lyme patients say is saving their lives.

So the question is, does chronic Lyme exist and if so, why isn't it being recognized and properly treated?

This painful condition is what Gallagher and a group of women from Old Lyme say they've been suffering from for years.

“It affects every part of you,” said Katarina Jaeger.

"They say after four weeks you're cured, but every person sitting at this table is proof that is doesn't go away after four weeks,” said Allie Petit.

“I get twitches where my arms will twitch my hands will twitch my legs will twitch,” said Gallagher.

Scientists say the debate goes back to how Lyme disease was first classified four decades ago when it was discovered, and that the definition needs to change so patients stop falling through the cracks.

This change is something Gallagher says she hopes she lives to see, but for now hope for the future is her survival.

“I know it’s not forever. I know there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” she said.

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