By Craig Miller
April 27, 2020
August 15, 2018. That’s when the roller coaster ride began for Paige Persak.
That’s when the roller coaster ride began for Paige Persak.
On that day, the Chicago-area schoolteacher looked down and spotted a circular red mark on her right wrist.
“It looked almost like I had a large version of a cigarette burn — perfectly round,” Persak says.
Later, a concentric circle would form around it, revealing the classic “bullseye” rash that often (but not always) signals a Lyme disease infection.
Lyme is carried by blacklegged ticks — small and easy to overlook, even when they’re biting as they are at this time of year. In fact, over the next year, Persak would have three tick bites and endure two separate rounds with Lyme. The disease can manifest in many ways, with headaches, fever and joint pain, and can mimic other conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
But Persak says she was most overcome with fatigue.
“I’m an active, pretty spry grandmother … and I just felt beat and exhausted,” recalls Persak, now 69. “My muscles hurt, my legs. I could sometimes just barely get down a couple of city blocks.”
It’s now present, to some degree, in all 50 states.
“Diagnosis continues to be a huge problem,” says Ostfeld. “We’re using twenty-five-year-old technology to try to diagnose tick-borne disease, and it is far from perfect.”
It’s likely the warming climate that’s driving ticks north, but this does not explain the spread of the disease into southern coastal regions that are seeing Lyme cases for the first time.