Steve Diers has been suffering from the symptoms of Lyme disease for more than 20 years. The retired park ranger and naturalist will be sharing the information he’s gathered at a free presentation, “Ticks and Lyme Disease: Reduce Your Risk and Increase your Awareness,” at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, at the Odd Fellows Hall, 526 Main St.
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted to people through the bite of infected black-legged ticks, also known as deer ticks. Many times, people who contract the disease do not even know that they were bitten by a tick. The disease can be transmitted, not only by adult ticks, which are about the size of a sesame seed and already difficult to see, but also by tiny nymphal ticks, which are smaller still.
“That is the fly in the ointment,” said Diers. “You see how small that is. Most people don’t remember being bitten.”
Diers believes he contracted the disease around 1995 while he was working as a park ranger in the East Bay. A big part of his job was building and maintaining horseback riding and hiking trails, which often had him crawling through leaf litter, a prime habitat of nymphal black-legged ticks.
Diers started exhibiting symptoms in 1997, but he says it was some time before he could be properly diagnosed by a doctor who recognized Lyme and receive the treatment he needed.
Not everyone exhibits the classic “bulls-eye” rash that is the hallmark sign of infection. Many other symptoms, such as headache, joint pain and swelling, heart palpitations, short-term memory loss, and dizziness are similar to symptoms of other conditions including multiple sclerosis, arthritis, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome and can be misdiagnosed.
Diers believes that education is the most important way to reduce risk and increase awareness of tick-borne diseases.
“People in California need to be aware of this,” he said. “They are all at risk as soon as they step out their door.”