Monday, February 21, 2011

Lyme Disease - the Secret Pandemic Sweeping America - Part 1.


May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month. With the focus by the Obama Administration on health 

care in America and my many responses that propping up the current system makes little sense if we are just making the flaws a lot bigger, I thought my current predicament might give you some first hand insight into the problems we face in health care.

Recently I was diagnosed as having the symptoms of Lyme disease. It was not unexpected as I live in Southern Maryland along the Potomac River just above the Chesapeake Bay where it is hot, humid, and ideal conditions for the disease.

Adding to the problem is the fact we have had an extremely wet past year in an area that already gets more than enough rain per year. Compound that with a short winter with record snow and cold and a very warm spring and all the animal and plant life is totally out of sync with normal patterns.

By early April the first ticks appeared and by May the poison ivy and poison sumac had become far more virulent than any year since I moved here. However, ticks have always been a huge problem and if you have dogs you will have ticks. No flea or tick treatment I found kept them off the animals the past three years.

So it was just a matter of time that the right tick would be on me, especially the tiny deer tick known to transmit the disease. However, I was not unprepared as I first encountered the disease when I lived in New Jersey and worked in New York City of all places. Lyme disease was first discovered in Lyme, Connecticut 1975, suspected of being transmitted by ticks in 1978, but remained a mystery until confirmed in 1982.

In 1992 my boss, who had a house in rural Connecticut got the disease. He underwent massive treatment with antibiotics and it was not until almost a year later that he no longer showed signs of the disease. Yet another friend in New Jersey contracted the disease while jogging through the beautiful countryside about the same year and she was nearly bedridden for a year before recovering.

That got my attention. This disease had no limits, it could strike the rich or poor, the healthy and office bound, and in most cases you could not even see the tiny ticks infecting you. It is an infectious disease and in the years since has spread like wildfire through humans. However, the medical authorities have always been way behind the times in diagnosing and treating this disease.

In addition to ticks, it has been learned that Borrelia, the bacteria in Lyme disease, may be carried and transmitted by fleas, mosquitoes and mites. Also it is not exclusively vector-borne. Humans have been known to pass the disease through breast-feeding and blood transfusions. Also the possibility exists that Lyme disease can be food infection.

With the help of two informative web sites with much more current research on the Lyme disease, and, I have been able to provide you with a far more accurate picture of the disease and what it means to you.

Lyme disease, or lyme borreliosis, is an emerging infectious disease caused by at least three species of bacteria belonging to the genus Borrelia. Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato is the main cause of Lyme disease in the United States, whereas Borrelia afzelii and Borrelia garinii cause most European cases.

Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in the Northern Hemisphere. Borrelia is transmitted to humans by the bite of infected ticks belonging to a few species of the genus Ixodes ("hard ticks"). Early symptoms may include fever, headache, fatigue, depression, and a characteristic circular skin rash called erythema. Left untreated, later symptoms may involve the joints, heart, and central nervous system. In most cases, it is thought the infection and its symptoms can be eliminated by antibiotics, especially if the illness is treated early.

There are over 100 strains of Borrelia burgdorferi in the United States, 300 strains worldwide and 5 subspecies of Borrelia burgdorferi. This diversity is thought to contribute to the antigenic variability of the spirochete and its ability to evade the immune system and antibiotic therapy, leading to chronic infection. Lyme disease bacteria has been reported for years in across Europe, Russia, Canada and throughout the world.

In the past late, delayed, or inadequate treatment was thought to lead to the more serious symptoms, which can be disabling and difficult to treat. Occasionally, symptoms such as arthritis persist after the infection has been eliminated by antibiotics, prompting suggestions that Borrelia causes autoimmunity.

Some groups have argued that "chronic" Lyme disease is responsible for a range of medically unexplained symptoms beyond the recognized symptoms of late Lyme disease, and that additional, long-term antibiotic treatments are needed. Other groups argue that antibiotics are the wrong form of treatment and can serve to mask the results temporarily but an even more dangerous parasite exists with the bacteria and the parasite can form a cocoon around the bacteria and preserve it through the antibiotic treatment.

As far as the antibiotic treatment, of four controlled trials of long-term ceftriaxone and doxycycline treatment in patients with ongoing symptoms, two found no benefit, and two found inconsistent benefits with significant side effects and risks from the antibiotic treatment.

Most expert groups, including the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the American Academy of Neurology, have found that existing scientific evidence does not support a role for Borrelia nor ongoing antibiotic treatment in such cases. However, the subject is controversial, with some doctors, patient advocacy groups, and politicians continuing to argue that long-term treatment is beneficial. This dispute has led to legal action over treatment guidelines, as well as harassment and death threats made against physicians who will not acknowledge "chronic" Lyme disease as a legitimate diagnosis.

Lyme Disease is far more complex than what the public has been told and the number of reported cases, though tripling every couple of years and spreading at a rate 7 times faster than that of AIDS, is officially estimated to reach 300,000 new cases this year alone. However, other evidence suggests this represents less than 10% of all cases.

What is clear is that Lyme disease is the fastest-growing epidemic in the world. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, Ga., USA, affirms that "there is considerable underreporting" of Lyme disease, maintaining that the actual infection rate may be 1.8 million, 10 times higher than the 180,000 cases currently reported. Nick Harris, Ph.D., director of the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS), states "Lyme is grossly under-reported. In the U.S., we probably have about 200,000 cases per year."

Considering vector, congenital and sexual transfer, it is estimated that 15.5% of the global population, nearly 1 billion people, could now be infected with Borrelia. The Sierra Integrative Medicine Clinic in Reno, Nev. states that "Authorities estimate that up to 90 percent of the population could be carrying the Lyme spirochete and that Lyme is a factor in over 50 percent of chronic illnesses."

Katrina Tang, MD, HMD, founder and director of research at the Sierra Integrative Medicine Clinic, states that Lyme disease eludes doctors because of its ability to mimic many other diseases. For example, according to an informal study conducted by the American Lyme Disease Alliance (ALDA), most patients diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) are actually suffering from Lyme disease. In a study of 31 patients diagnosed with CFS, 28 patients, or 90.3%, were found to be ill as a result of Lyme.

Paul Fink, MD, MS, past president of the American Psychiatric Association, has acknowledged that Lyme disease can contribute to every psychiatric disorder in the Diagnostic Symptoms Manual IV (DSM-IV). This manual is used to diagnose psychiatric conditions such as attention deficit disorder (ADD), antisocial personality, Anorexia Nervosa, Autism and Aspergers syndrome (a form of autism), to name a few.

Lyme Borreliosis causes, mimics, is manifested as, is misdiagnosed as, or is a contributing factor to more than 300 conditions, such as:
Acute coronary syndrome
Acute Meningitis
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
Alzheimer's Disease
Bell's Palsy
Bipolar Disorder
Brain Tumor
Brown recluse spider bite
Cardiac Disease
Coronary aneurysm
Fetal death
Infectious Mononucleosis
Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis
Multiple Sclerosis
Peripheral Facial Palsy
Rheumatoid Arthritis
Sudden Infant Death (SIDS)
Tourette's Syndrome

As you can see, even within the western medical practice there is widely disputed and conflicting information regarding the cause, composition, status, extent and treatment for this disease. New information, especially from foreign countries where response to medical issues is often dealt with much faster than in America with our institutionalized medicine, challenges are more pronounced.

In subsequent articles I will detail the effect the symptoms of the disease have had on me, my approach to treatment, and the results of treatment as I try to overcome the various manifestations of the disease I have experienced. It is hoped this experience and reporting on the progress will give you a better idea of what your alternatives are should you share the same fate and experience the devastating impact of the disease if you get caught in the pandemic.

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