Community - September 14, 2011

Insect Discovery Day in Portola Valley

by Dave Boyce

Insect Discovery Day, an afternoon dedicated to looking for insects in the wild, inspecting deceased and perhaps exotic insects under a microscope, and even eating insects, is set for Sunday, Sept. 18, from 1 to 4 p.m., at the Portola Valley Town Center at 765 Portola Road.

Some of the six-legged creatures on display will be beneficial, and some will be harmful, including an exhibit on a particularly harmful tick local to Portola Valley and Woodside that can carry Lyme disease, a potentially serious bacterial illness that affects the nervous system.

"This slow silent killer is unlike any other bacteria," said Sherry Cagan, a member of the Portola Valley Lyme Action Group, a team of eight residents, four of whom have chronic Lyme disease.

Ms. Cagan has late-stage Lyme disease, in part, she said in an email, because she had such a hard time getting an accurate diagnosis and early treatment. She said she saw "dozens of well-respected doctors" but it took five years and a "near-death experience" before she found out what she had.

If diagnosed early, Lyme is easily treated, she said, but if it gets a foothold, "it can become a personal nightmare." It can present symptoms that mimic serious illnesses such as multiple sclerosis, Lou Gehrig's disease, Bell's palsy, Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease, she said. "In some cases, long-term untreated Lyme can be the onset of such diseases," she added.

Go to and for information from the San Mateo County Health Department.

Go to for information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Ticks are not to be feared," Ms. Cagan added in her message. "Our mission is to educate our community of residents as well as medical professionals about this preventable disease. We are also aiding in the search for better diagnostics and a cure for late stage Lyme disease."


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