What You May Not Know

North Coast viewInformation Compiled by Jentri

Lyme disease, spread by infected ticks, is the fastest growing infectious illness in the U.S. after AIDS. Some attribute its sudden appearance and spread to ecological factors.

First documented in the U.S. in Lyme, Conn. in 1975, Lyme is caused by a bacterium that has now been found in ticks in every state.

50 percent of Lyme victims are children and teenagers.

Much of what the public, including most doctors, believe about Lyme disease is out-dated and based on flawed research. The result of spreading misinformation about Lyme disease is devastating, since early treatment is mandatory to avoid serious illness later.

If Lyme disease is not adequately treated with antibiotics, immediately after infection, it can become chronic, permanently disabling and fatal. There are no reliable statistics on how often this happens. Some say rarely, some say all the time.

Persons treated in Humboldt County in the 1970s or 1980s are very likely to have gotten an insufficient dose or a dose of the wrong antibiotic. Early Lyme is currently treated with a two to four week course of an oral antibiotic other than erethromycin.

There is currently no federally-accepted test that can by itself rule out or rule in Lyme disease. The most commonly used tests are up to 40 percent unreliable. There are test-positive individuals with no symptoms and symptomatic individuals with no positive test results.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) will not include symptomatic patients with negative tests, in either its research or its incidence figures, yet it advises doctors to diagnose on the basis of symptoms because the commonly used tests are unreliable.

According to some Lyme doctors, 30 to 50 percent of patients diagnosed with Lyme are not counted by public health agencies because they follow the CDC reporting procedures requiring a positive test.

Inadequate early treatment with antibiotics may cause the patient to test negatively forever. The longer the infection, the less reliable the test.

Chronic Lyme symptoms can appear for the first time years after infection, in untreated patients, inadequately treated patients or patients pronounced cured after treatment thought to be adequate.

The so-called “bulls-eye” rash is 15 years out of date as a reliable diagnostic sign:

  • The rash is present in less than half of LD cases.
  • It may be present but not noticed because of its location on the body. It is hard to see on dark skin.
  • It is not usually itchy or painful.
  • It is not always circular, but sometimes triangular, blotchy or streaked.
  • It is not always large, goes from 2 inches to covering the entire back.
  • There may be one patch or many.
  • It may appear 1 day to months after the tick bite, or within hours if the person already has Lyme from an earlier bite.

Individuals vary widely in their presentation of symptoms and in the course of the illness. Although there is a “classic” pattern, there is no universal sequence of recognizable events.

The percentage of individual deer ticks actually hosting Lyme bacteria varies widely nationwide, from less than1% to 90%, depending on location. A recent study in Mendocino County found the incidence to be 14%. It is not known whether micro-environments are a factor.

California has 48 species of tick. Only one is known to carry Lyme, the western black-legged “deer” tick (Ixodes pacificus). Some experts also suspect Ixodes neotamae, the wood rat tick, in the West. Both of these ticks can can live on other species of animals, including birds and mice.

Studies have shown that up to 50% of Lyme patients with positive test results do not remember a tick bite, a rash or an unusual illness.

  • Tick nymphs (babies) transmit the disease more than adults.
  • They are nearly invisible. Only the most sensitive people can feel them.
  • They can attach in places hard to see–back, scalp, armpits, pubic hair, naval, under breasts.

Experts disagree on how long the tick must be attached to transmit the Lyme bacterium, estimates range from 4 to 72 hours. Time does not matter if the contents of the tick entered the victim during removal or scratching while the tick was attached.

LD signs and symptoms mimic many other diseases, not all of those testable, either:

  • 60 per cent of untreated patients will develop chronic inflammatory arthritis.
  • 66 percent of LD patients report major episodic depression, 90 % for the first time ever.
  • LD can trigger chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalagia, rheumatic symptoms and congestive heart failure due to inflamed blood vessels, among many other things.
  • LD can activate or reactivate latent viruses, esp. herpes family viruses LD can cause high cholesterol and unfavorable ldl/hdl ratio 80 percent of late stage patients experience significant weight gain.

Deaths caused by LD are considered rare by those following research skewed by the “positive test” requirement. There are no fatality figures based on research that includes patients with negative tests. In addition, Lyme can cause death indirectly by triggering and exacerbating other conditions and by masking their symptoms. (If you are always in pain, you don’t explore every pain that happens.)