'There's a belief that Lyme disease does not exist here'

'There's a belief that Lyme disease does not exist here' »Play Video

EUGENE, Ore. -- The Oregon Lyme Network held a rally at the Lane County Courthouse Saturday, hoping to educate people on how Lyme disease can affect people in our state. 

“Oregon has been behind the 8-ball on this one and, for whatever reason, there's a belief that Lyme disease does not exist here,” said Theresa Denham of the Oregon Lyme Network.

Ticks are the leading cause of Lyme disease, and Denham said they could be found anywhere – from the Oregon forests to your own backyard. 

She said people often misdiagnose Lyme disease because its symptoms parallel the flu and common cold.

“People think they have a flu-type illness in the middle of the summer, that's not the time that people get the flu,” said Denham.

The Oregon Lyme Network also said it can be misdiagnosed as multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, mono or the flu. Sharon Lee has seen 14 doctors, going from hospital to hospital since she was diagnosed with Lyme disease almost 38 years ago.

“Specialists I saw seem to always see only a few symptoms, but I had at least 60 symptoms,” the former nurse said.

Lee said the Department of Health Services only allows Oregon doctors to treat Lyme disease patients for two weeks. 

Lee’s the leader of a 200-person Lyme disease support group in Medford. Most patients, including herself, went to California to seek long-term treatment.

“We have insurance that doesn't pay. We have people having to pay out of pocket, we have people on disability, losing their jobs and these are people that are outdoor people,” said Lee.

Denham said New York just passed legislation to allow Lyme Disease patients to choose which health guidelines they'd like to follow for treatment. They’re hoping Oregon will do the same.