LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- It can cause fevers, chills and headaches, but it's not COVID-19.
Health experts say Lyme disease is one of several infectious diseases that can look and sound like the coronavirus.
"I went to my family doctor like three days later because I had flu-like symptoms," said Rev. Dr. Michael Gatton, senior pastor at Hurstbourne Christian Church.
Several years ago, Gatton had all the symptoms of a viral illness.
"It was a low grade temperature at the time. Body aches all over, just like you'd have with the flu," he said.
But instead, Gatton was diagnosed with Lyme disease and says the symptoms are familiar and painful.
"Excruciating headaches and difficulty breathing. A lot of the similar things that the COVID-19 patients are reporting," he said.
Some of the symptoms that COVID-19 and Lyme disease have in common include: Fever, body aches, fatigue and sore throat. However, health experts say the two infections are still very different.
"Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium that is transmitted to humans by tick bites," explained Dr. Gary Marshall, chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Norton Children's Hospital. "And COVID-19 is a virus that is spread from person to person and is highly contagious."
Marshall says it's not uncommon for infectious diseases to have similar symptoms.
"Many diseases have similar symptoms, especially in the beginning and those things are very non-specific," he said.
But Marshall says Lyme disease is also very uncommon in this part of the country. "The vast majority of cases are up in Coastal New England area, places like Connecticut, Pennsylvania," he said.
While the tick that carries Lyme disease is rare in Kentucky, Marshall said it is not unheard of.
"That being said, the tick is migrating. So, it seems to be fanning out from the east coast, from the north and down to the south, out to the west," he said.
Gatton said he's proof you can catch Lyme disease in Kentucky.
"Yes you can, and yes it is here," he said.
Health officials say to infect you, the tick must be attached to you for several hours. So if you remove the tick right away, in most cases, you will not get Lyme disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that if you develop a rash or fever within several weeks after removing a tick, you should see your health care provider.
Health experts say you can protect yourself from tick-borne illnesses by covering your arms and legs and using bug sprays.
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