Resident Looks To Raise Lyme Awareness

OCEAN CITY – A local man’s New Year’s resolution is to find a solution in the prevention and the spreading of Lyme disease.

Justin Michalski, a local businessman, wants to form support for a Lyme disease awareness campaign, “Lead and Lyme”, through schools in surrounding local communities to get some action off the ground.

“I am hoping to get enough people involved in our local communities, and by local communities I mean individual school systems,” Michalski said. “I think we need to start small and focus on individual schools.”

According to the American Lyme Disease Foundation, Lyme disease is an infection caused by Borrelia Burgdorferi, a type of bacteria called a spirochete that is carried by deer ticks. Untreated, the bacterium travels through the bloodstream and establishes itself in various body tissues.

“The Lyme bacteria is a spirochete so it’s like a little drill, and it burrows into every type of tissue you have,” Michalski said.

Lyme disease manifests itself as a multi-system inflammatory disease that affects the skin in its early, localized stage, and spreads to the joints, nervous system and to other organ systems in its later stages.

If diagnosed and treated early with antibiotics, Lyme disease is almost always curable. Lyme disease in its later stages can also be treated. Treatments depend on the person, and only rarely does Lyme disease cause permanent damage.

In 2009, there were 1,466 confirmed cases and 558 probable cases of Lyme disease in the state of Maryland reported to Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The amount of incidents reported annually is estimated to be around 200,000.

The upper east coast is the area in the United States that is mostly affected by Lyme disease. Delmarva being one of the areas with the most reported cases, according to Michalski.

Lyme disease has directly affected Michalski and his family through his wife, Kara Flannery.

“About two years ago, my wife starting having seizures, and we went to talk to a couple doctors about it, and their guess was she had multiple scleroses,” Michalski said.

Flannery suffers from tremors, muscle locks and severe pain, symptoms closely related to rheumatoid arthritis. Doctors prescribed her medications for multiple scleroses, which caused her seizures to become worse.

It was a friend who told the couple her symptoms were also similar to Lyme disease and referred them to a doctor in Virginia where she was properly tested for the disease and tested positive.

At that point, her son had also tested positive. He had contracted the disease through the pregnancy and his birthing process. Prior to that he had also been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), which happens to mimic symptoms of Lyme disease.

This is when Michalski began his research and found that Lyme disease mimics many other disorders and diseases.

Dr. Charles Ray Jones, the leading pediatric specialist on Lyme disease, calls it "the second great imitator, syphilis being the first. The disease affects the entire body in a myriad of ways; it often mimics ADD, rheumatoid arthritis, autism, depression, chronic fatigue, multiple sclerosis, and even alzheimers.

“This thing hides so well as different diseases, and that’s why I want to start testing early,” Michalski said. “If we catch it early, we will find out about a lot of these kids who have ADD, behavioral problems, dyslexia, all kinds of different conditions, and what they really have at the core is Lyme disease.”

According to Jones, ADD usually evolves by age five. If your child has been performing well in school and suddenly starts exhibiting ADD-like symptoms, you should first seek a specialist to rule out Lyme disease.

Michlaski’s idea is to pave the way with “Lead and Lyme”.

According to the Maryland Department of Health, health providers are required to administer a blood test for lead poisoning at 12 months of age. There is no requirement for children to be tested for Lyme disease in areas designated as high risk.

Michlaski’s concept to have kids tested for Lyme disease at the same time as being tested for lead poisoning could prevent many misdiagnoses, and if the child tests positive it could also prevent the disease from “hiding out” and manifesting.

Michalski’s solution is to approach individual elementary schools with the “Lead and Lyme” campaign.

“If we get everyone tested, I think that the school board is going to see that there are enough kids coming in with that, and they’re going to say that this is actually a problem and then maybe they’ll start testing up in the age groups.”

Michalski hopes to have parents and teachers come on board with his campaign.

“Local changes are the only way to get things done, you can’t change the national government you got to change you local government,” he said. “So by going to our local elementary schools, we can get people in their local areas to convince their small community that’s a good idea to just get tested.”

To join Michalski’s campaign visit