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Lyme Disease 2012 - Symptoms, Diagnosis, and other Analysis

Author Zizzur Staff. Published on April 14, 2012 - 1:35 am (1310 views — 1557 words)

The US Health Department has reminded residents that the ''deer tick'' (the black-legged tick) which carries Lyme disease is already out and active. Even immature ticks as small as a pinhead can transmit the disease. More ticks expected from mild winter. With the unexpectedly early warm weather of the past few weeks, the insect world is in action well ahead of schedule. And with the flies, mosquitoes, and other interesting bugs, the deer tick has also once again come out of hiding.

Lyme Disease is an inflammatory disease caused by a spirochete (Borrelia burgdorferi) that is transmitted by ticks, usually characterized initially by a rash followed by flulike symptoms including fever, joint pain, and headache. If left untreated, the disease can result in chronic arthritis and nerve and heart dysfunction.

Lyme Disease was identified in 1975 and named for Old Lyme, Conn.

Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne disease in the United States. In 2002 alone, 23,763 cases were reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a 40-percent increase over the number reported in 2001. According to the CDC, the actual number of Lyme cases may exceed 200,000 due to underreporting and limitations in disease surveillance methods. CDC statistics indicate that the largest proportion of Lyme disease cases occurs in children aged five to 14 years, and more than 50 percent of Lyme disease cases involve children under age 12. Although cases of Lyme disease have been reported in 49 of the 50 states, more than 95 percent of reported cases occur in just twelve states: Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Massachusetts, and Wisconsin. In the United States, the Great Lakes region and the Pacific Northwest also have a higher incidence of Lyme disease. The disease is also found in Scandinavia, continental Europe, the countries of the former Soviet Union, Japan, China, and Australia.

Though April showers are said to bring May flowers, early spring is also time for the beginning of tick season, according to DNR and local health officials.

Michigan DNR Forest Health Specialist Bob Heyd, of Marquette, said tick season is well underway. So just how soon do the ticks come out?

"As soon as we get some warm weather, particularly anything that's above 50 degrees," said Heyd, adding ticks generally are out once the snow melts.

Though it's difficult to say just how many ticks are out and about, the population has been constantly on the move.

"I just know that each year it seems they move into new areas," said Heyd. "Ticks are really expanding their range due to movement of people, animals ... that's why it's good to take precautions this time of year."

The main concern with ticks is the transmission of Lyme disease, caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, which is transmitted through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks, also known as deer ticks.

Heyd said though all parts of the U.P. can experience cases of Lyme disease transmitted from deer ticks, counties in the southern U.P. along the Wisconsin border are more susceptible. This is because of a more favorable tick environment in this area.

According to a 2010 report on Public Health, Delta & Menominee Counties's website, three U.P. counties have been labeled "endemic counties" - counties with known risk for the disease. These include Menominee, Gogebic, and Ontonagon counties. Menominee County has seen a total of 138 Lyme disease cases in the past five years, including 22 cases in 2011. Delta County had only five cases of Lyme disease reported in 2011, for a five-year total of 15 Lyme disease cases.

Typical Symptoms

"Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans that resembles a bull's eye," Miller said. Additional symptoms include body aches, joint aches, and facial paralysis. Infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system if left untreated.

The disease is diagnosed based on symptoms, physical findings, and the probability of exposure to infected ticks, according to Miller. Most cases of Lyme disease can be successfully treated with a few weeks of antibiotics.

"The chances that you might get Lyme disease from a single tick bite depend on the type of tick, where you acquired it, and how long it was attached to you," explained Miller. "Many types of ticks bite people in the U.S., but only blacklegged (deer) ticks transmit the bacteria that causes Lyme disease."

Deer ticks in highly endemic areas of the Northeast and North-Central U.S. are most commonly infected. However, in order for these ticks to transmit Lyme disease, they must be attached for at least 24 hours.

"This is why it's so important to remove them promptly and to check your body daily for ticks if you live in an endemic area like we do," she added. "If you develop illness within a few weeks of a tick bite, see your health care provider right away."

Staying alert is important since ticks can transmit other diseases as well.

Miller said the best way to remove a tick when spotted is to use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp it as close to the skin's surface as possible, pulling upward with steady, even pressure.

"Don't twist or jerk the tick," said Miller. "This can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal."

Once the tick is removed, it is important to clean your hands and the bite area with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.

"The best way to prevent Lyme disease is to prevent tick bites," said Miller. "While it is a good idea to take preventative measures against ticks year-round, be extra vigilant in warmer months, from April to September, when ticks are most active."

Miller also suggested the following tips:

Avoid direct contact with ticks by avoiding wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.

Walk in the center of trails.

Use repellents that contain 20 percent or more DEET on exposed skin for protection that lasts up to several hours, always following product instructions. Parents should apply the product to their children, avoiding hands, eyes, and mouth.

Products that contain permethrin should be used on clothing. Treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks and tents. Permethrin remains protective through several washings. Pre-treated clothing is available and remains protective for up to 70 washings.

Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks crawling on you.

Conduct a full-body tick check using a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body upon return from tick-infested areas. Parents should also check their children for ticks under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and in their hair.

Pets, coats and day packs should be carefully examined, since ticks can be brought into the home on clothing and pets, then attach to a person later.

Late Disseminated Disease and Chronic Lyme Disease

Weeks, months, or even years after an untreated tick bite, symptoms can appear in several forms, including the following:

- fatigue, forgetfulness, confusion, mood swings, irritability, numbness
- neurologic problems, such as pain (unexplained and not triggered by an injury), Bell’s palsy (facial paralysis, usually one-sided but possibly on both sides), a mimicking of the inflammation of brain membranes known as meningitis fever, and severe headache
- arthritis (short episodes of pain and swelling in joints) and other musculoskeletal complaints (Arthritis eventually develops in about 60 percent of patients with untreated Lyme disease.)

In adults, less common effects of Lyme disease are heart abnormalities (such as irregular rhythm or cardiac block) and eye abnormalities (such as swelling of the cornea, tissue, or eye muscles and nerves). However, children with Lyme disease frequently complain of chest pain and have papilledema (swelling of the optic nerve). In addition, children with late-stage Lyme disease are more likely than adults to have fever and joint swelling and pain.

Homeopathic Treatment of Lyme Disease

Ronald D. Whitmont, M.D. of US says “The cornerstone of homeopathic medical treatment is understanding the way in which the illness manifests itself through changes in a particular individual’s health. The history provides the foundation with which to understand the individual patient, making it possible to comprehend how the disease manifesting in each given case constitutes a change from that person’s pre-morbid state.

The classical homeopathic prescription is based, not on the diagnosis of Lyme disease per se, but on this personalized understanding of the characteristic form of disease expression in that individual host; the particular way this individual has departed from his or her own pre-morbid normalcy.

Understanding this point is critical, since it marks the divergence of homeopathy from conventional allopathic treatment. One cannot practice homeopathy effectively or be true to homeopathic principles if one fails to utilize this methodology.

Classical homeopathic treatment of Lyme disease can only be undertaken after a thorough analysis of an individual who is affected by a disturbance in their health. Since illness manifests uniquely in each individual, effective treatment must follow the same guidelines.”