“It is a big threat along the Lakeshore,” said Douglas Flamboe, leader of the Lakeshore Lyme Support Group. “It is a devastating disease.”
The Ottawa County Health Department says Lyme disease is the most commonly reported vector-borne disease in Michigan. It is caused by a spirochete bacterium transmitted only by the blacklegged tick.
Prior to 2002, the tick and bacteria had not been documented in the Lower Peninsula. A decade of study has shown the emergence of the blacklegged tick and the bacteria that causes the disease in West Michigan.
Early symptoms of Lyme disease include headache, nausea, fever, spreading rash, aching joints and muscles, and fatigue.
“In most cases, if it is caught early enough, you are in pretty good shape,” Flamboe said.
Flamboe knows firsthand the effects of Lyme disease. In May 2010, he camped at Holland State Park and contracted the disease. The Holland Township man said a tick latched onto him without him noticing it.
“He was on me for about three days,” Flamboe said. “My wife ended up noticing it.”
Flamboe said he ended up with a headache and flu-like symptoms.
Flamboe said contracting the disease has had a significant impact to his life. He said lesions on his brain impacted things like balance and short-term memory, and he also has vision and hearing problems.
As a result, Flamboe said he lost his job as a network engineer.
The Lakeshore Lyme Support Group meets at Herrick District Library in Holland at 1 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month. For information, call Flamboe at 616-212-3059 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more on Lyme disease, visit the Ottawa County Health Department's website: miottawa.org/healthcomm/health/wnv.htm