Living with Lyme disease, woman works to raise awareness about the illness

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) -- Emmalynn Walvoord, diagnosed a few years ago with Lyme disease, is now fighting to raise awareness about the illness in the state of Nebraska.

“I’m doing much better,” she said. “It’s been really good.”

Walvoord, 21, said her life changed when she was diagnosed with the disease, which doctors say doesn’t exist in the state.

Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria transmitted to people through the bite of a tick, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

With the spring season underway and floodwaters still standing in some areas, experts say we could see an uptick in ticks.

Things weren’t great for Walvoord last year when we first met her. She was always exhausted, she had chest pains, trouble swallowing and memory loss. [SYMPTOMS]

Treatment wasn't easy or accessible because as infectious disease specialist Dr. Mark Rupp said: Lyme disease isn't in Nebraska

“We just really haven't seen that,” he said. “We do need to be cognizant and aware. Public health does do studies of what ticks are in our area, and we just haven't really seen Lyme disease become of concern.”

Walvoord wasn't a patient at Nebraska Medicine; her treatment and doctor are hours away, in Minnesota.

Her magnesium levels have plummeted since her diagnosis, and she’s hit a road block when it comes to getting her magnesium infusions.

“I still can't find a doctor in Nebraska to sign off to help with Lyme disease symptoms,” Walvoord said. “We are working on it.”

She previously had to take several medications — about 30 pills a day. That’s been reduced since she spent 6 months with an IV line in her arm.

“When we catch people with early state and treat them with antibiotics, they are successful with treatment,” Rupp said.

Walvoord is encouraging anyone who thinks they may have Lyme disease to seek help — the sooner the better.

“If they think they have Lyme disease, find a Lyme literate doctor,” she said. “I think we need to start teaching that it exists in Nebraska.”

Preventing tick bites

The CDC offers these tips for tick bite prevention:

Know where to expect ticks. Ticks are found in wooded or grassy areas, and sometimes on animals. Avoid ticks in these areas by walking in the center of trails.

Treat clothing and gear with products containing 0.5% permethrin, or buy permethrin-treated clothing and gear.

Use insect repellants containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, or 2-undecanone. [INFO]

If you’ve spent time outside, check your clothing for ticks. Tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing — or longer, if clothes are damp. If clothes require washing, use hot water as cold and medium temperature water will not kill ticks.

Examine gear and pets. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets, then attach to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats, and daypacks.

Shower within two hours after being outdoors. This may help wash off unattached ticks and is a good opportunity to do a tick check under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the bellybutton, on the back of the knees, in and around hair, between legs, and around the waist.