CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- One of the state's best-known Lyme disease specialists has been charged by the North Carolina Medical Board with unprofessional conduct for making what the board describes as unsubstantiated diagnoses of at least five patients. The charges against Dr. Joseph G. Jemsek were brought Dec. 9 and signed by board president Dr. Robert C. Moffatt. According to the board, five patients went to Jemsek with non-specific symptoms "such as fatigue, achiness and decreased concentration." Jemsek diagnosed each with Lyme disease despite the fact that in each case "there was no historical, physical, serological or other laboratory evidence to support" such a diagnosis, Moffatt wrote. In each case, Jemsek prescribed a several-month course of intravenous antibiotics "in the absence of any research of clinical evidence of efficacy, and in the face of increased risk of infection," according to the charges. The board charges that Jemsek failed to educate or inform his patients that both his method of diagnosing Lyme disease and his method of treatment were departures from recognized standards for dealing with the illness. The names of the patients were withheld from the charges for privacy reasons, the board said. Jemsek is head of the Jemsek Clinic in Huntersville, about 20 miles north of Charlotte. The practice specializes in HIV research, Lyme disease and other chronic illnesses, as well as general internal medicine. Jemsek returned a call from The Associated Press seeking comment and left a message, but it wasn't received until after business hours. An attempt to reach Jemsek later Friday through his answering service was not immediately successful. Jemsek told The Charlotte Observer he disagreed with the allegations and would fight the charges. "We're proud of what we do and we've helped hundreds of people," he said. The board scheduled a hearing on the charges for Feb. 15 in Raleigh, saying that grounds exist to annul, suspend, revoke or limit Jemsek's license to practice. Jemsek has been licensed in North Carolina since 1979. Lyme disease is named after Old Lyme, Conn., where the disease was first described in 1975. Apart from fatigue, it causes joint inflammation and can affect the nervous system and the heart in its later stages. However, because its symptoms are similar to those seen in other ailments, it can be difficult to diagnose. The disease is passed on to humans by bites from infected deer ticks. State epidemiologist Dr. Jeff Engel of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said the accepted method of diagnosis is a clinical examination of a patient followed by lab tests that support the finding. Treatment guidelines call for prolonged intravenous antibiotic treatments of at most two to four weeks -- and at that length only for patients with significant complicating neurological symptoms like palsy, encephalitis or meningitis, he said. Engel said numerous studies of people and other mammals in North Carolina have led him to the conclusion that Lyme disease is not endemic in the state. He said he believes up to 95 percent of the state's diagnosed Lyme cases are actually people suffering from Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness, a red rash that spreads around a tick bite but eventually disappears and does not develop into full-blown Lyme disease. "It can be confused because it looks just like the initial manifestation of Lyme," he said. Jemsek is known in the Lyme disease community for his belief that the disease is underdiagnosed. He told The Observer he became interested in the disease because patients have been "sort of abandoned. They're challenging, they're complex ... I saw a real need to address this." In an article published on his clinic's Web site, Jemsek writes: "the most debilitating form of Lyme disease, the persistent or chronic form ... is debunked, or at least felt to be grossly over-diagnosed by powerful factions in academic medicine. Unfortunately, this attitude filters down to most treating physicians, especially in a low prevalence region for Lyme disease like the Carolinas, whose physicians thereby tend to trivialize or deny the existence of persistent Lyme disease."