Lyme Disease Association & Mercy Hospital Announce Lyme Disease Forum

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Local: Heather Okun [email protected]
National: Pat Smith – [email protected] 888 366 6611

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Lyme Disease Association & Mercy Hospital Announce Lyme Disease Forum
Local University Student Gives Back to Community after delayed diagnosis changes life

Scranton, Pennsylvania, March 10, 2008–The national Lyme Disease Association (LDA) announces a free public forum to be held at Mercy Hospital on March 31, 2008, 7-10PM, on Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. Featured speakers include Dr. Richard Horowitz, Hyde Park New York, who will discuss the diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease; and Patricia Smith, Wall Township New Jersey, President of the Lyme Disease Association, who will present the spread of tick-borne diseases and the problems faced by patients.


Lyme is the most prevalent vector-borne disease in the country, and it has been joined by other emerging co-infections in the Northeast including babesiosis, anaplasmosis/ ehrlichiosis, and tick-borne Bartonella, transmitted by the bite of the same deer ticks that carry the Lyme disease bacteria. Pennsylvania has consistently ranked number 2 nationwide in reported case numbers of Lyme disease. The NE District in Pennsylvania, which includes Lackawanna County, ranks third of 6 districts in 2006 case numbers and 3rd in incidence over 5 years.

This forum was developed in conjunction with Heather Okun, Marywood student, as part of her professional program at Marywood University. After suffering a tick-bite as a teen, she developed severe cognitive problems that dropped her grades while in high school; yet, she remained undiagnosed for Lyme disease for two years. Heather had intended to become a veterinarian. Subsequent to treatment and then a relapse, however, she was seen by a physician’s office that employed physician’s assistants (PA). Then and there, she decided that she would study to become a PA. Heather, who, is on the verge of graduation, will also be a conference speaker. She says, “It seems appropriate that for my professional contribution which is required for graduation, I tell my story and educate others about this disease that changed my life.” 

Heather’s experience with her Lyme disease not being recognized, is not an uncommon one, especially in children. They are a special concern, because age groups 5-14 years are at highest risk of acquiring Lyme disease. Unfortunately, too many people are unaware that Lyme disease can interfere with the learning process and that many students require special accommodations in the classroom as a result. And since the disease is often misdiagnosed or diagnosed months or years after infection, Lyme disease can cause numerous ongoing physical problems involving the cardiac, neurologic, and musculo-skeletal systems, and it can manifest as psychiatric problems. Neurologic Lyme can even cause a drop in IQ for some students, which can usually be rectified with treatment.

Says LDA President Patricia V. Smith, “LDA has been happy to work with Heather and with Mercy Hospital to provide this forum in an area where Lyme and other tick-borne diseases are too often overlooked as a diagnosis. Awareness is certainly the key to prevention of this disease, and more research needs to be done to answer the tough questions, such as why some people do not get totally better.” 

ABOUT THE LYME DISEASE ASSOCIATION (LDA): —The Lyme Disease Association (LDA) is a national volunteer run nonprofit that devotes ninety-six percent of its funds to programs–funding research, education, prevention and patient support. LDA-funded research has been published in peer review including JAMA, Neurology, Infection, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. Recognizing that the ability to find solutions involves a multi-disciplinary effort, the LDA has partnered with businesses, patient groups, celebrities, government, and the medical community to unlock the secrets of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. LDA and Time for Lyme, its Greenwich, Connecticut affiliate, collaborated to raise funds to open in 2007 the Lyme & Tick-Borne Diseases Research Center at Columbia University in New York which will coordinate research projects from across the country. LDA is currently planning its 9th fully CME accredited medical conference for physicians on Lyme and other tick- borne diseases to be held in San Francisco in October 2008. Go to