Tickborne diseases are now at pandemic levels in many countries, and this is especially true in our area. It is a complicated subject with many facets. I want to tell you about a good place to start learning. Today I had a discussion with David Roth who, after a nasty bout of Lyme Disease that was misdiagnosed for too long, founded The Tick Borne Disease Alliance. The Alliance is “dedicated to raising awareness through education, supporting research and promoting advocacy to find a cure for tick borne diseases.” They raise funds to support research to develop a test that will correctly diagnose the various diseases. The tests used now are unreliable and therefore, depending on the doctor, often lead to misdiagnoses and then often to debilitated health or even death.
This week, at work gardening, I was bitten by five ticks so small that my husband had a hard time getting them out. Ticks are an occupational hazard for me but all of you can get them as easily as I: at the beach, in the woods, at summer camp, in your yard, at the park, almost anywhere outside. The several tick borne diseases are easy to contract, difficult to diagnose, potentially life-limiting and even deadly. Ticks and their diseases are to be taken very seriously.
In my experience, people become aware of tick borne diseases when they or someone they know gets one. It is my hope that this article will serve as an opportunity for awareness. These diseases have become so prevalent and are potentially so dangerous that vigilance for ourselves and others is urgent. Self-education is a must. One must become knowledgeable of the life habits of ticks, the various types of ticks, the symptoms of the various diseases (there are more possibilities than Lyme), safe removal of ticks, how to find a “tick doctor,” the diagnoses and misdiagnoses of the over 12 different diseases caused by ticks, the need for self-advocacy and the various organizations and groups for support and information, etc. (and there is a lot of etc.).
The Tick Borne Disease Alliance website, tbdalliance.org, covers many of the subjects with which one must become knowledgeable. It is easy to use and presents the information in a form that makes this many-faceted subject easy to deal with. Rather than trying to detail all of the things one needs to know, I urge you to go to this website and read the whole of it and then to continue to gather even more information.
In addition to this very informative website and the continuing research and educational work the Alliance does, it has partnered with the X Prize, a fascinating foundation designed to solve some of the world’s great challenges by using the private sector to incentivize large- scale, global competition to attack market failures — for example the lack of “financial and intellectual capital in the effective diagnosis, therapies, and misperceptions about tick borne diseases.” The goal is to develop a reliable tool for the diagnosis of tick borne diseases. This tool, which the Alliance sees being available to everyone regardless of location or financial means, would present a solid diagnosis that would enable the medical and insurance communities to form sustentative treatment modalities for the treatment of tick borne diseases, reducing needless suffering of potentially millions of people.
There are, indeed, many misperceptions about tick borne diseases. For example, the notion that if the tick is removed within the first 24 hours, one is safe. Not so.
Unless a tick is found, one cannot get Lyme. Not so…often the disease bearing tick is NOT found.
There must be a ring around the bite to prove that one has become infected. Not so.
One course of antibiotics insures a cure. Not necessarily.
Ticks can only transmit one disease at a time. Not so…they can transmit several with one bite, causing a variety of symptoms.
This is very serious. Tick bites and tick-borne diseases are simply not 100% preventable. Become informed.
Thank you, David Roth, for the work you do and for the alliance.
Jeanelle Myers is a professional gardener and consultant. For gardening discussion you can call her at 631-434-5067.