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Lyme Disease: Hidden Epidemic of Arkansas

Annette Sharp holds a BAAS in Behavioral Science from Texas A&M. She is a counselor and motivator with an empathetic heart.

"..........In the fullness of time, the mainstream handling of chronic Lyme disease will be viewed as one of the most shameful episodes in the history of medicine because elements of academic medicine, elements of government and virtually the entire insurance industry have colluded to deny a disease.........." Dr. Kenneth Liegner.

A bulls eye is present in less than 50% of cases. This child lives in AR.

A bulls eye is present in less than 50% of cases. This child lives in AR.

Is There Lyme Disease in Arkansas?

The topic of whether Lyme Disease actually exists in the state of Arkansas is a matter that's become controversial, especially in the past decade. According to University of Arkansas' Division of Agriculture, "Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis, tularemia and Lyme disease are reported nearly every year in Arkansas" (see 'Tick Borne Diseases in Arkansas')

Looking at the Arkansas State Health Department's statistics, one would assume there have been no cases of Lyme disease. But how accurate is this reporting method? And why does Arkansas, specifically, omit reported Lyme from the chart? Does this merely mean there's been no reported cases since then or have cases of the disease in the United States dropped sharply in the last decade?

Let's take a look at the national statistics from the Center for Disease Control. 'Confirmed cases' of Lyme Disease in the U.S. rose from 17,029 in 2001 and peaked at nearly 30,000 in 2009. 'Confirmed cases' are backed up by either a positive Lyme test (by CDC standards) or manifestation of the bulls-eye rash. At one time, the CDC voiced concern that for every confirmed case of Lyme, there are ten times as many unconfirmed cases, not to mention the numbers of instances when the disease is not recognized at all. The CDC has only recently admitted that the actual number of Lyme Disease cases is in excess of 300,000 per year; not counting the thousands of misdiagnosed cases!

Bullseye Rash

An example of a bulls eye rash on an individual in SW AR taken in October, 2011.

An example of a bulls eye rash on an individual in SW AR taken in October, 2011.

Lyme Disease Cases Have Risen, Nationwide!

Lyme Disease cases, overall, have increased in the last decade, not decreased, as it's been reported by Arkansas. Why, then, would Lyme Disease cases drop sharply for Arkansas, yet rise elsewhere? Did the ticks carrying the borrelia bacteria simply pack their bags and go across the state line?

Reported Lyme disease cases in Arkansas were much higher from 1994-2001 (statistics supplied by ADH), peaking at 27 confirmed cases in 1996 & 1997. In fact, the Department of the Army's Center for Health Promotion & Preventative Medicince performed a Lyme Disease risk assessment in 1995 (see here). The study found that "the risk of contracting LD at LRAFB is presently moderate to high, this conclusion is based on the results of the survey combined with information from the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) regarding human case reports and LD vector tick collection records from sites relatively near LRAFB".

No confirmed cases of Lyme Disease have been reported by the Arkansas Department of Health since 2007.

To answer the question "have Lyme Disease cases dropped sharply (nationwide) in the last decade?": NO. The answer takes us back to our original question of "is there Lyme Disease in Arkansas?": Absolutely YES.

"No Lyme here..!"

"No Lyme here..!"

The Problem With Testing & Reporting Methods For Lyme Disease

Arkansas, like other states, uses the same testing process: The Elisa and the Western Blot This is, perhaps, the number one reason for the inaccurate discrepancy in reporting Lyme cases. There are over 100 peer reviewed journals demonstrating that the tests for Lyme disease and other spirochetal infections can be falsely negative. In fact, this is possible when all clinical symptoms are present. The CDC once stated that the testing procedure was developed for Surveillance purposes and was not intended to be used to diagnose the disease, relaying that Lyme Disease is a clinical diagnosis based on symptoms and physician assessment.

Second, it appears that Arkansas and other southern healthcare practitioners are not being educated and informed to look for the disease in their state; alluding to the repeated statement "there is no Lyme here", which couldn't be further from the truth. The result is that patients are diagnosed with some other ailment like Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue syndrome or Lupus. In the matter of Arkansas, some individuals have reported that that their physician won't even test them for the Lyme bacteria (see 'My Letter to Representatives in Arkansas comments) or the doctor gives them the most common tick borne disease diagnosis in the state: Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF). While verified cases of RMSF in the state of Arkansas are on the rise, this could account for the reduction of reportable Lyme cases in the state; possibly misdiagnosing as RMSF.

In addition, Lyme Disease reporting methods appear to be different for southern states, compared to our northeastern counterparts. According to the Georgia Lyme Disease Association, " the states we checked, COMPLETELY different reporting practices were used, much different than those employed in the Northeastern United States! And, apparently federal officials are fully aware of this, but somehow, they fail to note these incredibly significant discrepancies on the National Case Map." (see Undisclosed Flaws in CDC National Lyme Disease Case Map Limit Chances of Early Diagnosis and Treatment for Southern Patients).

Read the full story of the southern Lyme connection at these links:

In 1988, Dr. Edwin Masters of Missouri began to see several patients that met the clinicial definition criteria for Lyme Disease. Because there were variations and differences in the agents and microbiologic makeup of the southern version of the disease, it was referred to as 'Lyme-like Illness' and, later, 'Master's Disease'. Others prefered to give the illness the label of STARI, Southern Tick Associated Illness. In spite of the evidence presented, Dr. Masters was continually denied acknowledgment that the disease was present in Missouri ticks. With his colleagues, Dr. Masters proved the denials to be in error. Even with Dr. Master's findings, the struggle has continued to convince acceptance of the southern version of the illness as Lyme. This most certainly proves that the southern areas affected by STARI or Master's Disease would positively include the state of Arkansas. So why the denial?

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Double bulls eye on 3 year old child.

Double bulls eye on 3 year old child.

  • ArkansasLyme : Arkansas Online Lyme Support
    Arkansas Online Lyme Support is a virtual meeting place and source for information and emotional support for people with Lyme and other tick-borne diseases living in Arkansas. It is sponsored by leading national patient advocacy.

Is Arkansas the State of Denial?

Why would a state continually deny the existence of this one disease, yet acknowledge and accept all other tick borne diseases? What's at the root of this blatant denial? There could be several explanations:

1. Reluctance of state officials: Examples: An anonymous source stated that when calling the AR state health department to report the case, they were told they would rather not, because AR is the natural state and it's economy is based on people coming to hike, float the Buffalo River, and enjoy outdoor activities, so they don't like to report such things. Still another shares that when they asked a medical professional why there was such a stigma asociated with Lyme, they were told that when the first cases were reported in Missouri, that one of the first statements from someone in the state government was that “this will really hurt tourism". Finally, another person reports they tested positive for Lyme and RMSF and received a call from the ARDH asking questions about the RMSF. When asked if they were going to inquire about Lyme, the person was told they (ARDH) don’t collect statistics on Lyme disease because the ticks in AR don’t carry Lyme.

2. Doctor's aren't reporting their finding to ARDH: Examples: Another source shares that he had Lyme Disease and even with a positive test, he was still told (by his doctor) that he did not have Lyme (when the Lyme panel was positive) He states the doctor recanted the original diagnosis, which led the patient to believe that the doctor either didn't send anything to ARDH or CDC, or was pressured by the ARDH to recant so they didn’t have to report anything.

3. Healthcare Practioner's Refusal to test for the disease: Example: A woman states that she had this issue with her child but was denied testing for the disease, declaring that UAMS and Arkansas Children’s Hospital denied the disease in the state. Neither hospital would test for it. She stated she has a letter from Arkansas Health Department that Arkansas has no Lyme. Still another patient was told, after the doctor reviewed the Lab results from a different lab he told her she did not have Lyme and the lab company was not reputable. She asked him to do his own test & he said “NO, Arkansas has no Lyme”.

4. Ineffective testing: As mentioned above, the testing for Lyme disease is inaccurate and was never meant as a diagnostic tool.

With all these possible explanations, testimonials, and the repeated instances of bold refusal to even consider that Lyme Disease definitely exists in Arkansas, we still don't know why it has been continually denied to exist in this state.

Other Tick Borne Diseases In Arkansas

Other tick borne diseases are on the rise in Arkansas. Cases of Ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Tularemia have jumped sky high since 1994. Why, then, has Lyme dropped to zero? It doesn't take a person with a high IQ to ascertain that if other tick borne diseases are increasing, all vector borne diseases would be escalating, as the national statistics prove.

Varied Rashes

 Individual in Western AR with chronic Lyme disease, tested positive in 2010.  Rash recurs frequently. Has been cultured.

Individual in Western AR with chronic Lyme disease, tested positive in 2010. Rash recurs frequently. Has been cultured.

Rash from tick bite on individual in Little Rock.  Source of photo informs author that rash originally had white clearing in the middle.  The PCP positively identified as bulls eye;   Individual clinically diagnosed with Lyme Disease

Rash from tick bite on individual in Little Rock. Source of photo informs author that rash originally had white clearing in the middle. The PCP positively identified as bulls eye; Individual clinically diagnosed with Lyme Disease

Bump that appeared approximately 4 weeks after being bitten by ticks in extreme NW Arkansas.  Not positively identified as bulls eye rash. Individual was clinically diagnosed with Lyme disease.

Bump that appeared approximately 4 weeks after being bitten by ticks in extreme NW Arkansas. Not positively identified as bulls eye rash. Individual was clinically diagnosed with Lyme disease.

Rashes From Tick Borne Diseases in Arkansas.

At right you will see various photos of rashes on individuals in the state of Arkansas. I'm adding their actual accounts.

"I am enclosing pictures of the rash I got, and I still get this rash. These pictures are not at the site of the bite (or the tick I recalled pulling off) but I never had ANYTHING like this on my body until I was positive for Lyme. My pcp confirmed this is NOT ecxema, or psoriasis (sp) which my youngest son has.en these spots occur, they always occur when I am having a relapse or am very symptomatic, they slowly fade."


"There was some central clearing that was more visible than what this picture shows. The rash was about 3 inches at its widest part. The first doctor saw it and immediately started writing a script. He said Lyme disease is not something to take lightly and he wanted me treated immediately. . .I have several young friends that are physicians ranging in age from 30 to 40 and they have all been shocked when I said I got it here. They respond with "but Lyme doesn't exist in Arkansas." ............"


"The bump appeared & it was about 4 weeks after being bitten. It felt hot to the touch, but wasn't sore. I eventually opened it up after it turned purple. It bled I soaked it in Epsom salt daily until it cleared up. The tick didn't bite me there, either. The tick bites were in the groin area. My doctor couldn't really say it was a bulls eye, but he couldn't say it wasn't related to the tick bites, either. My sister & brother took one look at the red bump and saw how bad I felt & said "I bet that's Lyme."

This Arkansas woman went to the doctor with this clear bulls eye and was told "'s nothing, don't worry about it."  You can see the tick is still embedded.

This Arkansas woman went to the doctor with this clear bulls eye and was told "'s nothing, don't worry about it." You can see the tick is still embedded.

Arkansas's Hidden Epidemic

The average individual may not have the scientific knowledge or microbiology degree to prove, without a shadow of doubt, that Lyme Disease exists in Arkansas. The proof is already evident in the personal narratives and accounts from people in the state who all have similar experiences, the bulls eye rashes, and the numbers of clinical diagnosis' that have not been reported. The misdiagnosis, denial, and refusal to "look outside the box" are affecting residents daily. Individuals from all over the state are seeking help from the best hospitals in Arkansas, yet they are being told "Lyme does not exist in Arkansas."

The Lyme community finds it necessary to become it's own subculture to support each other, make referrals for care, suggest alternative treatments and warn others about the danger of the disease. For the past two years, individuals from across the country have joined together in Washington DC for a national day of Awareness. Protests have risen against the current IDSA treatment guidelines for Lyme Disease, as people realize it's simply not adequate protocol and appears to fail in most cases. Awareness has grown internationally. Recently, Australia has joined ranks with the movement. France and Germany united on September 15, 2012 for a national day of protest, demanding attention to the existence of the disease, the plea for unbiased education for doctors and to unify the effort for activism and attention. The fact that concern for recognition and attention to the issue of Lyme Disease has spread worldwide attests to the urgency for understanding and change.

So, you see, the ignorance and denial of Lyme Disease, STARI, Masters Disease, or whatever else you want to call it, exists everywhere, not only in Arkansas. Nothing will ever change as long as we continue to do the same thing, over and over. Perhaps the time has come to ask ourselves this question: What are we going to do about it?

Arkansas Lyme

Trailer for 'Under Our Skin'

Watch "Under Our Skin", the true story of the Lyme epidemic, for free on Hulu

  • Under Our Skin: Movie Documentary
    In the 1970s, a mysterious and deadly illness began infecting children in a small town in Connecticut. Today it's a global epidemic. A real-life thriller, this shocking festival hit exposes the controversy surrounding chronic Lyme disease.

Your Comments & Contibutions Are Welcome

RockyMountainMom from Montana on June 20, 2015:

As a biologist, the science (or lack thereof) applied to creation and interpretation of diagnostic standards is perplexing (especially the use of surveillance criteria stated by their own authors as not intended for diagnostic use, especially in place of clinical criteria). The guidelines for care are unbelievably outdated and the process for review is preposterous. The politics surrounding the review and the panel selection for review is unbelievable. The failure of insurance to cover treatment beyond 28 days (supported by the care guidelines noted earlier) is impossible to comprehend. The disregard and dismissal of hundreds of peer reviewed studies by doctors claiming there is "no evidence" of chronic Lyme is unbleivable. When you put these things together, they sound and feel conspiratorial. But the wide array of problems and the easily accessible evidence of the problems certainly is not an argument against their being an issue. It shouldn't be anyway, but sadly when there are so many moving parts (this comment only includes the 'short list') it sort of predisposes the folks on the bum end of the stick to sounding conspiratorial.

At times I feel as if those of us that have had our lives uprooted by this could pretend these issues were simpler and smaller, it would all be easier to digest and might therefore get more attention and resolution.

I'd love to have a break, sir, and am truly happy for you (no passive aggressive undertone intended here) that you have the luxury to see it that way. I'd LOVE that luxury. I'd love to have every day of my life returned to me. It would be wonderful to be at work right now. Beyond your wildest imagination.

I would be out of bed and off line RIGHT NOW if Lyme disease diagnosis, treatment, and care were on the level, but they are not.

I truly wish I could unlearn the science I bothered with in graduate school so I could accept the 'science' being relied upon for the care of this illness, and just move on with a debilitating misdiagnosis.

Bryon Satterfield, DDS on June 20, 2015:

what is the rationale for the gigantic cover-up and denial of Lyme Disease BY DOCTORS who stand to profit by diagnosing and treating Lyme Disease? They would provide a very valuable service to those with the disease; it would be ethical; it appears hordes of people are clamouring for diagnosis and treatment- which would make it easy to say "You've got the disease." You think that doctors are conspiring with the government and presumably chambers of commerce to hide the existence of Lyme Disease in Arkansas? It seems to be here and under diagnosed but give me a break on the conspiracy theory.

Annette Thomas (author) from United States on March 10, 2015:

They misdiagnose all the time. Fibro is a diagnosis they give when they can't figure it out. I pray you check out some of these links to get the help you need.

just sick on March 10, 2015:

started witiveth fatique......then pericarditus......tested positive for

RMSF but not LYME....i never had RMSF that i knew????? Continuely got worse all over pain recurring pericarditus for 6 months......finally diagnosed with fibro......Hydrocodene is what gets me out of bed daily for the last 5 years.....worse days But there are no good days...

Annette Thomas (author) from United States on November 14, 2014:

Thank you all for your comments.

shraddhachawla on November 14, 2014:

This Hub is an eye opener. Lyme disease is not limited to any particular state or country. There have been cases reported from Europe and Asia as well . Very informative Hub donotfear.

RockyMountainMom from Montana on November 11, 2014:

Thank you for sharing your story and helping tho illustrate how difficult it is to get this disease recognized!

A recent hub states that Lyme is overdiagnosed and is unfortunately getting a lot of views. Glad there are articles like yours as well, though I'm worried about people who believe that article.

Annette Thomas (author) from United States on December 15, 2013:

Thanks for the info, MMS! Will pass it on!

Saved by MMS on December 15, 2013:

MMS - google Jim Humble and MMS as it will cure Malaria, Lyme disease and a lot more. $20 will get you a years supply of it even though it won't take that long for a cure.

Annette Thomas (author) from United States on March 23, 2013:

A comment that was left on social media: "My son was infected in 97 while visiting his father in Jacksonville Ark. 3-5 mile radius of LRAFB! Myself infected Ozarks 1991! Have several classmates who are also Infected.?? It's all about the Tourist$$$$$$"

Annette Thomas (author) from United States on March 16, 2013:

Hey Lisa! Thank you for commenting on my article. This is Annette. Sorry I'm not able to plan a big event for AR, but I'm so overloaded now I can't take on anything else. Going to DC for me on the 25th is going to be a vacation. I really want a rally to happen in Little Rock, but being I'm 2.5 hours away & don't know the layout too well, it makes if a problem for me.

Lisa Hilton on March 15, 2013:

Hi Michele, not sure if you have seen this or not , so thought I would share this with you. Im the US rep for the Worldwide Lyme Disease Awareness Protset and we are lookin for someone from Arkansas to start a rally or lyme awareness event. There are over 20 countries and and several states all protesting or having awareness events on the same day. Contact me if you are interested.

Michele on March 15, 2013:

Thank you!

Annette Thomas (author) from United States on January 09, 2013:


"Infectious Disease clinic here in Arkansas is a JOKE!!! There is one Lyme Literate doctor I know of in Little Rock but he is maxed out at 500 patients there and is currently opening a new practice. I can Not post his name here because our witchy government likes to make our lives harder and theirs for GETTING WELL! My daughter and myself both have Lyme and had Rocky Mountain Spotted fever right along with it, she also got Mono with hers. The co infections are real but you need a real Lyme doctor who can spot them on many symptoms because the testing is wrong on these so many of the times.

That being said 5 years of fighting tooth and nail before we found anyone with a brain. I have been to the haha Infectious Disease specialist UAMS and they were as dumb as a door nail. I saw 3 doctors THREE with a positive for Lyme and an antibody for R.M.S.F. Sick as a dog my local hospital and two doctors sent me there after being bit and running fever and hurting like something out of a horror movie. I could barely walk and my lungs hurt so bad I had been having to sit up straight in bed to keep from feeling like I would drown and you know what they said to me. Have your heart and lungs checked and loose a little weight! LMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMAO!!

So I did and my heart was fine but that doctor did something the others wouldn't nor would the I.D. CLINIC he ran all the proper blood work and found it was NOT my heart it was LYME. It was effecting my lungs and red bloos cell count which I am sure you all know what co infection causes this with Lyme by now. My point here is this these real Lyme doctors know they are trying to cover up Lyme in Arkansas too. You can't! I won't let you and you will NOT steal another second from my families lives with your lies dear ignorant Arkansas doctors. I know of over 2,000 people in my lil area alone who have this. So to those who are lied to; Wake up it's here!! Stop killing people and being incompetent and living in your lil fantasy world trying to make a killing off of us who are truly suffering just because you have in your mind it's NOT here. No more will I be your victim, I tell them what I need or can't take now and do NOT let them make money off of me with their ignorance to this disease.

They will test you for everything, tell you are crazy, make you suffer something horrible but the only choice you have is to fight and keep looking for someone who knows what they are actually doing besides draining your pocket and live savings. This disease is very complex and treating it like you would others in anyway is a JOKE. That's all I have to say. For those of you here who are sick trust your instincts not your doctors and fight there is HOPE."

Thank you, Michele, for raising awareness in Arkansas! donotfear

Annette Thomas (author) from United States on November 17, 2012:

Moonlake, thank you. You're right about the testing: it's ineffective. Sad thing about it is that the doctors only prescribe the standard dose for people when they usually need twice the amount of treatmenfor twice as long to make sure. But regardless, we hope to bring a new awareness to this subject.

moonlake from America on November 17, 2012:

There are many cases of Lyme disease here but for many years when someone would go to the doctor and ask for a lyme test the doctor would laugh. Now they are much more likely to test for it right away. Testing doesn't always work but if nothing else is found they will treat for lymes here. I can't tell you how many deer ticks I have found on our pets. We try to keep them treated but sometimes we still find them.

I will tell my family members in Arkansas about this hub. Voted Up.

Annette Thomas (author) from United States on November 14, 2012:

Thank you so much! That means a great deal to me to hear this.

never ben married on November 13, 2012:

donotfear, your leadership and professional knowledge on this traumatic and disabling disease is a life saver for so many! My hats off to. It is a true honor to meet you here. Cheers!

Annette Thomas (author) from United States on October 09, 2012:


Thanks for your wonderful response. The lady who was on the Dr. Phil show is one of my Facebook friends. She's doing a lot better but still isn't out of the woods yet.

frogyfish from Central United States of America on October 08, 2012:

Thank you for your courage and preserverence in writing this truth. I know many doctors won't step out of their orthodox box to really help doesn't care to pay, the tests are inaccurate...too many people are suffering with this disease. Keep up the excellent work!

I recently watched an online replay of a Dr. Phil show about Lyme disease - with patients there who experienced rejection and mockery about their illness...and a lady doctor who IS treating them somewhat successfully. Bravo to her and you!

Annette Thomas (author) from United States on October 04, 2012:

Thank you, Mommy Needs a Nap!!!!

Michelle Clairday from Arkansas on October 04, 2012:

You can count on it. Pinning and facebooking this article now.

Annette Thomas (author) from United States on October 04, 2012:

Thank you for sharing. This is a matter that's not to be taken lightly. I hope you'll pass it on to others in the state.

Michelle Clairday from Arkansas on October 04, 2012:

Very interesting and a bit scary for this Arkansas mom of six. I will definitely remember this if the symptoms show up at my house. Thank you.

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