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WKYT Investigates | COVID confusion

Initial coronavirus symptoms are common signs for other illnesses, too. That can cause problems for patients.
Published: Oct. 19, 2020 at 2:43 PM EDT
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CARLISLE, Ky. (WKYT) - Lakyn Reid has always spent a lot of time in the woods, hiking, hunting and just enjoying nature. Now, though, she’s hesistant to go out.

“My life drastically changed,” she said. “Forever.”

Reid now spends hours each week, instead of outdoors, inside doctor offices dealing with chronic issues she believes could have been avoided.

One difficulty with the coronavirus is that symptoms are general and often mild, which can make it easy to confuse with other sicknesses. That is the confusion Reid ran into, when what eventually were diagnosed as tick-borne illnesses were initially confused for COVID.

“I was absolutely terrified,” Reid said. “And then it just got to the point I was so sick, being scared wasn’t even an option anymore.”

Reid says she has been diagnosed with Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF), both of which are caused by ticks. But it took time for Reid to get the right treatment because of confusion over what her symptoms showed.

Advocates say she is not the only one.

“We’re having patients that are tested several times for COVID, and then later on finding that it was Lyme Disease,” Vicki Petsy, president of the Kentucky Lyme Disease Association told WKYT’s Garrett Wymer. “And this is happening too much.”

The problem is that initial symptoms can be similar. For Reid, that meant shortness of breath, headache, fever and chills.

“That sounds like a lot of things we’re dealing with right now, especially because of COVID,” said Dr. Ryan Stanton, an emergency physician speaking in general about the symptomatic similarities. “A lot of these are very difficult, very vague, to identify, especially when we’re in the middle of a pandemic where we’re so laser-focused on one particular virus.”

Reid says she was tested seven times for the coronavirus and tested negative each time.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers Kentucky part of the region where RMSF and Ehrlichiosis (another tick-borne illness) are most common. Lyme Disease used to be less common in Kentucky, but CDC data shows cases increasing in recent years. Still, cases are relatively rare.

Lyme Disease is known for a bullseye rash, which could have made it easier to figure out for Reid, but not everyone gets it. Reid says she did not, although she did eventually get a rash on her face.

“I was a completely healthy person before all of this,” Reid said. “I was normal before this. Then when the tick bite happened everything changed.”

Reid thinks she was exposed to a tick while out hiking earlier this year in eastern Kentucky. She knows she was bitten by another one in May.

Experts say prompt treatment is important with tick-borne illnesses like Lyme Disease to avoid chronic issues moving forward. Reid says, for her, it was two weeks from the time her symptoms first showed up before she was diagnosed and began getting treated with the proper antibiotics.

As she continues to deal with symptoms and other problems, Reid says she does not know what to expect now.

“It’s kind of scary to think about the outlook and the future,” she said, “but I’m trying to get through it day by day, make adjustments to my life, be as healthy as I can and take every day as it comes.”

Reid is trying to keep a positive outlook - from the inside looking out - and hoping someday to get back to the outdoors she loves so much.

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