Spring officially began today, bringing positive thoughts of increasing daylight and warmer temperatures. As we look forward to shedding winter wear and spending more time outdoors, the national Lyme Disease Association (LDA) reminds everyone that ticks, which transmit Lyme disease, become more active when temperatures are above 35°.
Lyme is found in ~65 countries worldwide and is endemic in many areas. In 2011, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 33,097 Lyme disease cases. With only 10% of cases actually reported, numbers may exceed 300,000 annually. The top 10 states were PA, NY, NJ, WI, CT, MA, MN, MD, NH, and VA.
If not diagnosed and treated early, Lyme can lead to disseminated infection, affecting every system in the body, including cardiac and central nervous systems. Mental confusion, memory problems, weakness, arthritis, and gastrointestinal problems may occur.
Blacklegged (deer) ticks, feed once per stage – larva, nymph, adult─ and can pick up Lyme and pass it on at each feeding. They can also transmit Babesia, bartonella, anaplasma, tularemia, and Powassan virus. The poppy seed-sized nymph probably causes more disease. Other types of ticks can transmit different diseases.
Effective tools to manage Lyme are lacking. Diagnostic tests have significant limitations causing treatment regimens to be problematic and controversial. To that end, LDA is sponsoring its 14th annual Lyme & Tick-Borne Diseases CME Conference June 1-2 in Minnesota. While hosting scientific conferences and funding research on Lyme─$250,000 awarded in 2012 grants alone─ the LDA emphasizes the importance of prevention, such as wearing protective clothing and immediate tick checks after being in tick infested areas, especially on the edges of woods and paths. See more prevention tips on LDA’s website.
While LDA and other groups are advocating for better patient care, federal legislators have joined the fight to improve Lyme research and education. Congressman Christopher Smith (NJ-4) joined last month by Congressmen Wolf (VA), Gibson (NY), and Peterson (MN), introduced HR 611, a bill that expands federal efforts in Lyme and other tick-borne diseases’ prevention, treatment, education, and research activities. It also establishes a Tick-Borne Diseases Advisory Committee to improve communication among federal agencies, medical professionals, patients and advocates to ensure that the best science is represented in public health policy decisions.
Legislators in nineteen states have introduced bills in recent years to address Lyme. Virginia Governor McDonnell signed a law earlier in March requiring doctor disclosure of limitations of Lyme diagnostic tests. See LDA’s website for a state-by-state Lyme legislation table. Fighting for patients for 21 years, LDA is gratified that so many others have joined in to develop tools to prevent, treat, and cure tick-borne diseases.
ABOUT LDA: A national nonprofit dedicated to Lyme disease education, prevention, research, and patient support, LDA’s been accepted into Combined Federal Campaign 2012, an approved charity for federal workplace giving. It’s also a Guidestar.org exchange member, recognized for transparency. LDA’s an Environmental Protection Agency PESP Partner and offers LymeAid 4 Kids program for children without insurance.