Fox News.com released an article this month from MyHealthNewsDaily concerning high risk areas for Lyme Disease: Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Upper Midwest regions (which includes Ann Arbor) of the U.S. have the highest risk of contracting Lyme Disease. The results came from a field study according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Of course, it doesn't help that the Ann Arbor area is having an unusually warm winter (2011-12) with very little snow.
The history of Lyme disease appears to have some documentation as far back as possibly the early 1900's when it was called Bannwarth's Syndrome and was characterized by a skin lesion associated with neurologic involvement. In the 1970's, in Lyme Connecticut (where it received its name), there appeared to be a significant amount of children suffering from Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis and most of these children lived near wooded areas. Researchers from Yale University and the Connecticut State Department started examining the symptoms and found that many of the patients also reported a bulls-eye rash similar to research done in 1909 by a Swedish doctor who took care of patients bitten by a sheep tick. In 1982, Lyme was found to be a spirochete bacterium and was named Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb). Since then, major research and supporting associations have begun.
Lyme disease is generally caused by a bite from a deer, rabbit, dog, wood, or Lone-star tick or from other biting insects such as deer flies, horse flies or mosquitoes. It's important to note that not all ticks and biting insects carry Lyme.
Lyme disease is "no respecter of men", in other words, anyone can get it, including your pets. Ticks can be found in woods, tall grasses, and even your own backyard where a host can carry it in. It does not appear to be contagious - you may have to be actually bitten by the tick or biting insect. Hunters, hikers, campers, loggers and anyone who works outdoors are most susceptible.
The symptoms of Lyme disease are wide and varied. Some never have symptoms or they don't show-up right away and only about 1/3 get the infamous bulls-eye rash that is often talked about. Other symptoms include: fatigue, muscle and joint aches, stiff neck, fever, chills, headache. As you can see, these symptoms can be misdiagnosed as the flu or even a touch of food poisoning. However, early detection is key in preventing more severe symptoms. The Lyme Disease Association states that sometimes these symptoms may even mimic Lupus, Lou Gehrig's disease, Multiple Sclerosis, or Parkinson's disease.
Symptoms are vast and can include complications with vision, heart, musculoskeletal, neurologic and neuropsychiatric.
Inflammation, sensitivity to light, double vision.
Slowed rhythm or irregular heartbeats, inflammation, enlarged heart, shortness of breath.
Arthritis, muscle diseases, tendon inflammation.
Meningitis, sleep apnea, hypersensitive to sounds, paralysis, seizures, headaches, itching/tingling.
Poor concentration, memory loss, psychosis, no appetite, mood swings.
Prevention comes from protecting yourself with proper clothing and wearing insect repellent. Because DEET has stirred-up much controversy, research is being done on alternatives such as essential oils. However, at this time, good, sound research on essential oils and Lyme prevention do not appear to be available. Checking for ticks after being outdoors can help in early detection which is the key to preventing serious complications. Wearing light colored clothing makes it easier to spot ticks and lightly rubbing your hand over your skin can also help detect bumps. The Lyme Disease Association recommends saving the tick in a covered bottle or jar and making note of the date, time and any other information you can provide. This may help physicians in diagnosis and treatment.
Treatment: There are currently four tests available for diagnosing Lyme disease: ELISA, Western Blot, Lyme Disease Urine Antigen, and the PCR - and all four can produce a false-negative test. Regular follow-up with a doctor specialized in Lyme disease is paramount. The patient is generally treated with antibiotics which can be tricky because there are 300 strains of Bd and no test to see which antibiotic works with which strain. Ticks can carry other diseases too like Babesia, Ehrlichosis and Rocky Mountain Spotted fever. So, it's important that you be checked for these diseases as well. Keeping a diary of symptoms will help the physician in your diagnosis and treatment phase.
A big concern is that the cloud of "fear of deet" is about to collide with the cloud of "lack of understanding on bug bites" and create a nasty "Lyme storm." What does this mean? more research, we need more research. Money for research begins with awareness. Spread the word.
In order to gain a better understanding of Lyme Disease and prevent fear, check-out these following resources:
- American Lyme Disease Foundation, http://www.aldf.com
- Lyme Disease Association, http://www.lymediseaseassociation.org
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