Man diagnosed with Lyme disease a decade ago reacts to vaccine trial

Published: Aug. 17, 2022 at 7:27 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - If you enjoy the great outdoors, you’ve probably done a tick check when you leave the woods to avoid complications from a bite. But an added layer of protection in the form of a Lyme disease vaccine is getting closer to reality.

”You’re telling me that a tick caused all this damage?” asked Austin Calhoun. “One single tick?”

Austin Calhoun was 17 years old when he noticed the mark on the back of his knee.

“I had a big bullseye mark,” Calhoun explained.

It was treated as a staph infection, but weeks and then months went by and Austin’s health was getting worse.

“And it was causing all these new symptoms,” Calhoun said. “I was having seizures, chronic nausea and vomiting, chronic fatigue, memory issues as I was like being in a constant fog, and just ached everywhere.”

Austin’s mom, Angie, says they went to 22 doctors in search of what was wrong.

“For Austin, it went into his autonomic nervous system which wreaked havoc on everything that his body does automatically,” she explained. “It was excruciating to see our son’s quality of life diminish the way that it did.”

Austin was diagnosed with Lyme disease more than a year after what they believe was the initial bite. But he still deals with symptoms more than 10 years later. We asked a doctor about why some people can’t shake the symptoms.

“You will sometimes see the immune system continue to work against something that is no longer there,” said Dr. Steve Threlkeld, Director of Infectious Disease at Baptist Memorial

There are higher concentrations of reported Lyme disease in the northeastern states.

“Lyme disease particularly in this part of the country pales in significance compared to other tick borne illnesses, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Ehrlichia, which really are centered in this part of the country,” noted Threlkeld.

“We are seeing a slow rise, especially in the early summer months,” noted Dr. Tulip Jhaveri, UMMC School of Medicine Assistant Professor.

The rash is the biggest sign to see a doctor but...

“You know, the tricky part is sometimes you can’t really always figure it out whether you’ve been bitten by a tick because most of the time it’s the nymph form of the tick that bites you,” said Dr. Jhaveri. “So, they are usually about two millimeters. So it’s easy to miss it.”

The Calhouns are hopeful the vaccine that’s in the final trial phase could help others avoid the health journey they’ve experienced.

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