Lyme in Arkansas: From zero to May

Last year, there were no cases in Arkansas. This year, Lyme disease has its own month. (KATV Photo)

LITTLE ROCK (KATV) –Earlier this year, for the first time in a decade, two cases of Lyme disease were confirmed in Arkansas.

The mother of the two girls who got the rare diagnosis met with Governor Hutchinson.

In the opinion of Alarie Bowerman and others, Arkansas has taken another step towards becoming Lyme literate.

That's because of a proclamation that declares May "Lyme and tick-borne diseases awareness month."

This in a state that for years declared something very different: that Lyme disease did not exist here.

Bowerman's daughters are doing well thanks to an early diagnosis and early treatment.

"This is the last thing I would want my family to have or anybody else to have,” says Bowerman. “Especially in this state. We're not necessarily up to date yet on treatment and diagnosis here so therefore a lot of... most people have to be forced to go out of state to have treatment."

The Bowermans live in northwest Arkansas but had to travel to Kansas for treatment.

"At first I was diagnosed with mono,” says Amy Rose of California. “Then it was chronic-mono. Then Crohn's Disease. Irritable bowel syndrome. I was diagnosed with lupus, MS and Alzheimer's."

Bryant native and OBU grad Amy Rose says she lived with Lyme disease for over seven years before it was properly diagnosed in San Diego.

She and Bowerman have co-founded the Arkansas Lyme Foundation to help educate her home state about Lyme disease.

“Remove the tick properly, save it, watch for symptoms,” Rose advises. “And sometimes you have to tell a doctor, 'I am begging you to do a Lyme test.' And if they don't do it...go out of state."

Two months ago, UAMS asked Arkansans to become citizen scientists and collect and mail in ticks.

So far, more than 1,000 ticks have been received from 52 of our 75 counties.

Most of the ticks received by UAMS have come from central and northwest Arkansas. More are needed for the study and survey to be comprehensive.

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