Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Lyme Disease Awareness Month

It's May, and that means Lyme disease awareness month. Lyme is caused by the spirochetal bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb) transmitted through the bite of an infected tick. Lyme is primarily a tick-borne infection. However, transmission is also possible through infected mosquitoes, fleas, and other insects. 

Lyme disease is not to be taken lightly. If left untreated or not treated sufficiently, it can disseminate throughout the body, damaging cells, organs, and tissues. It is a multi-system disease, meaning it affects many systems in the body. Long-term or chronic Lyme can significantly affect the heart, joints, muscles, nervous (central and peripheral), and immune systems. It has been documented that the Bb bacteria can invade the brain within the first 48-72 hours of infection. Lyme disease is also known as "the great imitator" because it can mimic other diseases and illnesses. Accurate diagnosis is paramount. 

Remember ticks also often carry other serious pathogens such as Bartonella (Cat Scratch Fever), Babesia, Ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Relapsing Fever, Q Fever, Tularemia, and Powassan virus. This speaks of the more common picture of Lyme disease today, which is chronic, relapsing, and includes multiple co-infections, such as those listed above, and other viruses, parasites, and fungals. This is more appropriately termed the Lyme disease complex. I'll be writing more about this throughout the month, the life stages of ticks, and how to properly recognize and remove them. 

We are now entering the season that ticks are most active (mid-Spring to Fall). So please be mindful to check yourself, your kids, and pets for ticks after being outdoors. And don't forget to check those inconspicuous places like belly buttons, underarms, in and behind ears, between toes, and groan areas. 

Educate yourself. Please see What Is Lyme Disease? for more detailed information about risk factors, safety precautions, and the symptoms and stages of Lyme. 

Please see Resources for a list of helpful websites, blogs, and books related to Lyme, co-infections, and other relevant health issues. 

You might also want to consider reading The Complexities of Lyme Disease series by Thomas Grier, M.S. Part 1 can be found here, or the entire series is listed in my blog archive (March and April 2013).


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