More than 1,200 people are expected to converge on Brambleton Town Center on Sunday, May 15, for what’s become the largest event to combat Lyme disease in the country.
“It’s one of the most mission-driven events,” said Steve Gotschi, founder of the Loudoun Lyme Run and owner of Sterling-based DryHome Roofing and Siding. “Seventy-five to 80 percent of the participants have been affected by Lyme disease in one way or another.”
Lyme disease is a tick-borne illness that is quickly becoming one of the nation’s most misdiagnosed and fastest-growing infectious diseases.
The Loudoun Lyme Run, now in its sixth year, raises money for the National Capital Lyme Disease Association, which works to heighten awareness of the disease and put money toward research to prevent and treat it.
The event includes a 10K, 5K and 1K family walk/fun run, and new this year—a virtual race, in which participants who cannot make it on race day can log their scores and still make donations.
Last year, the race raised a net of $50,000. This year, Gotschi’s goal is to write the National Capital Lyme Disease Association a $75,000 check.
Gotschi started the Lyme run in 2010 after watching his wife battle the illness for years before she was properly diagnosed.
“She went to 10 doctors and no one could figure out what was wrong with her,” he said. “I thought, there’s got to be more awareness of this. She shouldn’t be telling the doctors she has Lyme.”
Infected people often test negative for Lyme disease. If left untreated, infection can cause severe neurological, cardiac and arthritic problems. Initial signs of Lyme disease may include a bull’s eye rash on a tick bite site, fatigue, and flu-like symptoms.
Loudoun County is home to the largest number of Lyme’s cases in the nation, with between 150 and 200 reported each year.
The Loudoun Board of Supervisors, along with other political leaders and public health officials, have been working to raise awareness of the issue in recent years. As part of that effort, the board formed the Lyme Disease Commission five years ago. They’ve also declared May Lyme Disease Awareness Month.
Gotschi said he has seen progress as more people learn about the importance of protecting themselves from tick bites and being earnest about getting treatment if they have symptoms of Lyme.
Just last week, the Virginia Board of Medicine sent out a newsletter to doctors throughout the commonwealth reminding them of the 2013 law that requires them to give any patient who is tested for Lyme a disclosure sheet stating that the tests do not always detect the disease.
That’s a big step, according to Monte Skall, executive director of the National Capital Lyme Disease Association. “I sat on the governor’s task force and heard over and over again the same story. The test came back negative for Lyme, and six months later that very same person can’t get out of bed.”
Doctors who don’t hand out disclosure literature can face a fine. Monte said, “We’re not after fining physicians, but what we want is to get information to patients about testing. Early detection and treatment is vital.”
The Loudoun Lyme Run will take place at the Brambleton Town Center, at 22855 Brambleton Plaza in Ashburn. Registration for participants 14 years and older is $30 before May 11 and $35 on race day; the fee for children 13 years and younger is $25 before May 11 and $30 on race day. The 10K begins at 8 a.m., 5K begins at 8:10 a.m. and 1K begins at 9:30 a.m. Register and see more information at loudounlyme.org.
Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA-10) will be attendance to present a Congressional Record statement to the National Capital Lyme Disease Association.