Man vs Tick
What do Avril Lavigne, Alec Baldwin and George W Bush have in common? The answer is Lyme Disease. It is becoming an increasingly talked about and debated topic, principally thanks to some of the high profile cases being brought to the public’s attention, not to mention the global health crisis unravelling around it.
We’re all familiar with some of the dangers of tarantulas and scorpions, but perhaps less so with this seemingly innocuous member of the eight-legged arachnid family, the tick. Blacklegged ticks to be precise are to blame, they can cause the disease for humans through their bite. The Canadian Government cites there are two types of ticks, if infected, which can cause Lyme Disease. The Western blacklegged tick in British Columbia and the blacklegged tick found in other parts of Canada . These creepy crawlies are usually located in forest and overgrown areas between woods and open spaces.
According to FoxNews, Lyme Disease is the most common tick-borne illness in the United States . Wikipedia takes that a step further by referencing the ‘Regional Disease Vector Ecology Profile: Central Europe’ who claim it’s the most common disease spread by ticks in the Northern Hemisphere . In 2009, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported thirty-eight thousand cases, three times more than in 1991. Most researchers agree that the true number of infections is five to ten times higher. Some researchers attribute the rise to climate changes and the movement of infected animals like mice, rodents and deer that commonly carry the disease-borne ticks . The National Health Service in the UK estimates there are 2,000 – 3,000 new cases of the disease in England and Wales each year .
It is notoriously hard for doctors to diagnose the disease as symptoms can manifest in different ways and can be similar to other illness including fever, headaches and fatigue. In addition there isn’t necessarily a rash or bullseye mark where the tick bite has occurred, although this is the case for some people. The Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation states that ‘Only a handful of blood tests effectively detect Lyme bacteria, so the infection is often missed .’ If left untreated symptoms caused by the Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium can be serious and lead to a variety of health problems including seizures, neurological and heart conditions, arthritis and the nervous systems being affected. A few people with the disease go onto develop fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome which is likely related to over activity of the immune system . Whereas, if diagnosed and treated swiftly a simple course of antibiotics will normally suffice to counterbalance the infection and prevent longer-term health issues.
One of the most vocal people in the UK on the subject is John Caudwell, who believes ‘it could be an epidemic’. The Billionaire behind Phones4U has been very outspoken about his family’s battle with the disease since five of them were diagnosed . His 20-year-old son Rufus has been most chronically affected, suffering from symptoms including agoraphobia, panic attacks and depression, he is currently bed bound. On ITV’s This Morning Caudwell quoted a leading clinician in the field, Dr Klinghardt who said he had ‘never had a single patient who suffered from Alzheimer’s, ALS, Parkinson’s or MS who tested negative for Borelia’
Yolanda Foster from ‘Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’ has been hugely impacted by her battle with Lyme Disease over the last three years. "I have lost the ability to read, write, or even watch TV, because I can't process information or any stimulation for that matter.” "It feels like someone came in and confiscated my brain and tied my hands behind my back to just watch and see life go by without me participating in it."
There is currently no vaccine available to thwart the disease so authorities recommend the best route is prevention. This includes using insect repellent, wearing long clothing and sticking to footpaths in woodland areas . However, as the cases continue to spiral it is evident there is mounting pressure on the desperate need for solutions including a vaccine, a cure and greater awareness and resources around the war against ticks.