(The graph above shows the steady march of Lyme disease.)
Lyme disease incidence increased about 80% in the United States between 1993 and 2007. It is increasing rapidly and shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, Massachusetts state officials just declared Lyme disease an epidemic. According to Dr. Sam Rountree Telford III, a professor of infectious diseases at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine, “There’s no question deer are driving the epidemic.”
Many people are also contracting other tick-borne illnesses such as anaplasmosis, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and tularemia. Lyme disease, anaplasmosis and babesiosis are all most common in the Northeast part of the United States.
And new tick-borne illnesses are being discovered such as Bourbon virus and Powassan virus. Powassan virus is invading New Jersey and Connecticut and its symptoms are similar to Lyme disease but symptoms can be felt minutes after a person is bitten. Powassan also differentiates itself from Lyme disease in that it causes deaths whereas Lyme disease doesn’t. Powassan virus can cause permanent damage to the nervous systems of those afflicted by the disease, and there is no known cure. Around 10 percent of victims die from the disease, although many people who contract the virus never show any symptoms. It comes on so suddenly that it is the type of illness people go to the emergency room for.
For many of this tick-borne diseases a delay in antibiotic treatment can result in severe illness and even death according to the CDC.
It seems strange that many towns routinely spray for West Nile virus and EEE but that no similar preventative measure is taken for tick-borne illnesses considering how prevalent and debilitating they have become. Dr. Raphael Stricker, who is internationally recognized as a leader in tickborne disease diagnosis, treatment and research, has called for a coordinated “Manhattan project” similar to the attack mounted against the HIV/AIDS epidemic is urgently needed to address the serious worldwide threat of Lyme disease.
So what can you do to protect yourself?
1) Use a repellent with 20% or more DEET (on skin or clothing) or permethrin (on clothing and gear).
2) Avoid walking in tall vegetation.
3) Perform daily tick checks on your ENTIRE body and on clothing and pets.
4) Use a chemical control agent on your yard. Effective tick control chemicals are available for use by the homeowner, or they can be applied by a professional pest control expert.
And if you find a tick, pull it out with tweezers that are disinfected with alcohol.