Lycoming College speakers to address Lyme disease

WHEN: Thursday; Oct. 11; Nov. 6; and TBA

WHERE: Room G-11, Heim Biology and Chemistry Building, Lycoming College

INFO: Call 570-321-4180

Lycoming College will hold four free, public symposiums on Lyme disease, each addressing a different subject — prevention, treatment, pets and research.

They all will take place at the Heim Biology and Chemistry Building, Room G-11, on the college campus.

The events feature:

• Dr. Thomas Mather speaking at 7 p.m. Thursday on “How to Live Life in a ‘More Ticks in More Places’ World.”

• Drs. Harold Smith and Francis M. Powers Jr. speaking at 7 p.m. Oct. 11 on “Integrative Medicine Treatment for Lyme Disease.”

• Dr. Brian Schwartz speaking at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 6 on “Lyme Disease: Epidemiologic and Clinical Overview, and Our Research.”

• Dr. Steve Winton will address pets and Lyme disease, but his talk has not yet been scheduled.

The talks have been planned “basically, because Lyme disease is epidemic in our area … and the numbers are increasing over time,” said Michelle Briggs, associate professor of biology at Lycoming College.

Briggs said informing the public about Lyme disease could help save them down the road.

“I had what appears to be Lyme disease for 19 years before I was diagnosed,” she said. “If I had been diagnosed early, I might not be suffering the issues that I have right now. So early detection and possibly even prevention in the first place is really important.”

She said Mather will discuss prevention issues.

“It’s about being tick smart, things to do and things to watch out for,” she said. “We’re very happy he’s coming to speak.”

She said that the speakers overall should help educate the public to be more mindful of Lyme disease.

“That’s the basic idea of it,” she said. “It’s figuring out what this disease is and getting it diagnosed soon if you do get bitten by some vector.”

She said it all came together when the college was asked to talk about the disease.

“Carol Sides approached the college last spring with a request that we sponsor a panel discussion on treatment of Lyme disease. That request was forwarded to the biology department,” she said. “We said, ‘Let’s look at the biology, and look at how you prevent it.’ We also have Dr. Schwartz coming to talk about the epidemiology of it, what causes it to spread.”

Briggs said it’s a large problem to address, especially for this area.

“There are many facets to the problem of Lyme disease, some of which are addressed by symposium speakers,” she said. “Ecologically, interactions between weather patterns, oak trees, mice and deer affect the abundance of the ticks that spread the disease.

“Epidemiologically, both the distribution and the number of confirmed cases have been increasing rapidly, and the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recently reported that Pennsylvania leads the nation in the number of Lyme disease cases,” she added.

Briggs said that because this area is so affected by the disease, it’s important that people know about it.

“Health-wise, people who are not diagnosed in the earlier stages of Lyme often face chronic health issues,” she said. “Currently, prevention is the best way to stop Lyme, a topic covered by our first speaker, Dr. Thomas Mather.”

For more information, call the university’s chemistry department at 570-321-4180.

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