ROANOKE, Va. – Lyme disease is spreading across the country and it's not always easy to detect. 30,000 cases are reported to the CDC every year.
Lyme disease is caused by the bite of an infected black-legged tick. The infection can be treated with antibiotics but unless it's caught early it can cause long-lasting side effects, like joint pain and fatigue.
In about 70 percent of the cases, you get a bullseye-shaped rash.
"As the infection persists longer and longer over time those bacteria can move from that tick bite site to different places in the body," said Mollie Jewett, who is with the UCF College of Medicine.
Jewett and her team are researching how the bacteria evade the immune system. They're developing a new diagnostic test of a patient's blood for the very early presence of the bacteria. Jewett's lab is working with engineers at UCF to develop a Lyme detection module that could sit in a doctor's office, but says the device is still several years away.
It took Sam Perry a long time to be diagnosed. The Perrys say they visited their family doctor, and several specialists ruling out everything from Hashimoto's disease to leukemia. Her family spent $24,000 out of pocket in one year to treat Lyme disease, getting antibiotics and hyperbaric oxygen therapy. There's now a nonprofit, Sam's Spoons for others who need treatment. You can find that link here.