“Lyme disease is a world-wide infectious disease caused by microscopic bacteria carried by tiny ticks. (image: B. burgdorferi, a spiral bacteria that causes Lyme Disease, seen through a microscope.) There are several species of deer ticks across the US that become infected with the spiral bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. Unsuspecting humans and animals walking through woodlands and brushy areas may be bitten by a tick and never know it. The tiny ticks, some the size of poppy seeds, may stay on your body for hours to days. The tick engorges itself with blood. If infected, the spirochete is transmitted to the bloodstream of the person or animal during the bite.” – Nick S. Harris, PHD (What You Should Know About Lyme)
Misconception about Lyme Disease is rampant among the government, insurance companies, medical community, media, and the public alike, and it’s going to take a massive amount of work to set things straight among these entities. I have full faith that we will see a huge shift in the next few years though. May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month, and I plan to take full advantage of this month to help educate, answer questions, and raise awareness for a disease that has become a silent epidemic.
Last year the CDC reported 300,000 new cases of Lyme, which is up 10 times from the amount that had previously been reported, and also does not include the tens of thousands of individuals who remain undiagnosed or misdiagnosed with various other illnesses such as, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fribromyalgia, and more. The escalated number of cases reported may have been news to the public at large, but Lyme patients have been calling for revised numbers for many years now. Just to put the 300,000 marker into perspective, the CDC has reported 50,000 new cases of HIV per year, and in 2013, there were 232,000 new cases of breast cancer reported. This makes Lyme Disease more prevalent than HIV and breast cancer combined. Yet, only $9 million dollars of government spending was allocated to Lyme Disease in 2014 as compared to the billions that are thrown into cancer and AIDS research.
A recent study suggests that chronic Lyme Disease patients experience a lower quality life than those with most other illnesses, stating that, “chronic Lyme disease is associated with a worse quality of life than most other chronic illnesses, including congestive heart failure, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and arthritis… The survey also shows that patients with chronic Lyme disease have high disability and unemployment rates. Over forty percent of patients with chronic Lyme disease reported that they currently are unable to work because of Lyme disease and 24% of patients report that they have received disability at some point in their illness. This compares with 6% of the US population who are unable to work due to illness.” (LymeDisease.org)
Despite mounting scientific evidence toward the sophisticated nature of the Lyme bacterium and it’s ability to withstand intensive treatments, the existence of a chronic form of infection (chronic Lyme Disease) is still disputed among many medical professionals, and this is the root of the incredible injustice in patients’ rights and treatment options in the US, Canada, Australia, Western Europe, and elsewhere. All the while, the rate of Lyme Disease continues to grow exponentially each year.
By treating chronic Lyme Disease, brave doctors run the risk of having their licenses revoked or being sued by unobliging insurance companies for the long-term prescription use of antibiotics, a common treatment for chronic Lyme. Research is limited because funding is so little. More and more people are becoming sicker and sicker with every passing day, and people are dying. The need for more health advocates who are willing to treat this disease is crucial, and the need for awareness and immediate change is dire.
Additional Facts and Tips for Prevention:
– Lyme Disease has been found in every single one of the American states and is present all over the world. This is not a disease that is secluded to the Northeast anymore. It’s everywhere.
– Ticks come in all shapes and sizes, and young ticks (nymphs) can be as small as a poppyseed.
– Make sure to conduct a full body tick check after you’ve been hiking, fishing, hunting, or even gardening.
– Be weary of moist areas- leaning up against tree trunks or sitting in an area of thick underbrush, such as on a pile of leaves, is not a good idea, ticks love these areas.
– Wear a hat, long sleeves, pants, and high socks in light colors when participating in outdoor activities. The light colored clothing will help you to more easily spot a tick and it’s much harder for ticks to attach through a piece of clothing. Also keep your hair pulled back if you have long locks.
– Consider using insect repellent such as Deet, or a natural alternative such as Geranium essential oil.
– If you begin to feel fluish or discover an odd-looking rash after spending time outdoors, get to your doctor immediately. Lyme Disease can be cured with a short course of antibiotics only if it’s caught in it’s early stages, so it’s better to err on the edge of caution.
For further information about Lyme Disease, please visit ILADS.org.