Remarks of Pat Smith, President, Lyme Disease Association, Inc. (LDA)
Lyme, the most prevalent vector-borne disease in the US is found in over 80 countries worldwide. About 220,000 new cases of Lyme disease develop each year, and some studies indicate 34% or more may develop into chronic disease.
The range of ticks is spreading nationwide and they now carry a whole host of TBDs which can complicate diagnosis and treatment.
With one bite of a deer tick, you may contract not only Lyme disease but babesiosis, anaplasmosis, encephalitis, and perhaps tularemia or maybe even bartonellosis.
With one bite of a tick on the move in the northeast, the lone star tick, you may contract Lyme-like STARI, Ehrlichiosis, tick paralysis and perhaps RMSF.
With one bite of the American dog tick, often BTW, dismissed by the physician with a “don’t worry, that’s not a deer tick, “wave, you may contract RMSF, tularemia and perhaps Ehrlichiosis.
From poppy-seed to sesame-seed size, the deer tick is hard to remove once it bites you, with fish hook like barbs on the hypostome it inserts into you. It secrets a cement like substance to glue itself onto you, and it secretes blood thinners to help it feed. It may also secrete chemicals to fool your immune system.
It can then transmit a bacterium that can wreak untold havoc: dozens of doctors, years of treatment, lost income, lost school time, and piles of unpaid medical bills are only part of the scenario; the lack of emphasis placed on Lyme disease by many in the medical and governmental communities is another.
Lyme is serious. It can enter the central nervous system within hours of a tick bite. It can hide in the skin & Joints, evade the immune system, mutate, change into forms unrecognizable to conventional antibiotics and can kill cells that are supposed to kill it. It can cross the placenta, cause birth defects and death of the fetus, and it can kill those infected.
Lyme can attack every system in the body and can mimic many other conditions including MS, ALS, CFS, FM, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and even an autism-like condition, reversed with treatment.
The bacteria can survive in stored blood under blood banking conditions, and Red Cross blood donor guidelines prohibit blood donations from those with chronic Lyme disease.
Our children are at the greatest risk of acquiring the disease, and they may spend years out of school due to its effects. Columbia University research has demonstrated a 22 pt. IQ drop in a Lyme patient, reversed with treatment. LDA and its CT affiliate, Time for Lyme, are partnering with Columbia to open an endowed research center for studying chronic Lyme disease. We are ~$200,000 away from opening the center, thanks in part to help from Manchester Rotary which has hosted this Gear Up for Lyme event for three years now.
Unfortunately, the monies our organizations can provide are relatively small, but research requires a monetary commitment commensurate with Lyme’s severity.
That is why we have federal companion bills S1479/ HR3427 introduced in Congress. Passage will culminate in a commitment from the government to develop a gold standard test, to evaluate the CDC surveillance criteria, to provide physician education and prevention strategies, and to form a federal task force to coordinate Lyme disease efforts. We also need to educate government officials, and to that end, we met 3 weeks ago in DC with the Director of the CDC to share our deep concerns about how Lyme is impacting patients and doctors in this country.
Remember, Lyme disease does not discriminate, nor does it confer immunity. Risky behavior includes what you are doing here today. The only thing standing between you, your family, and Lyme disease may be the power of these new monies to unlock the secrets of these insidious tick-borne diseases and to curb the spread of the tick vectors now threatening us, our families and even our pets.