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Mark Bello
Mark Bello
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Putting “The Great Imitator” in the Lyme Light

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As summer arrives and millions of people head for the outdoors, it is important to keep ticks in the “Lyme light” before they take a bite out of your summer fun.

Lyme disease is actually considered among the most common infectious diseases in the United States, afflicting an estimated 300,000 annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Forty years after the illness was first identified in Lyme, Connecticut, Lyme disease remains a challenge for patients and doctors because it mimics so many other diseases. That is why it is known as “the great imitator.”

What is Lyme disease and how do people get it?

Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted through deer ticks. Most people are infected through the bites of immature ticks called nymphs. Nymphs are approximately the size of a sesame seed. They attach to the body and stay attached for 3 to 5 days. Because they are so tiny and the bite is painless, many people do not even realize they have even been bitten. Adult ticks are approximately 3 – 5 millimeters and are more likely to be discovered and removed before they have had time to transmit the bacteria. Once a tick has attached, if undisturbed it may feed for several days. The longer it stays attached, the more likely it will transmit the Lyme and other pathogens into your bloodstream.

What parts of the country is Lyme disease found?

While cases of Lyme disease have been found predominantly in the Northeast and upper Midwest, Lyme has been found throughout the U.S. Ticks like to hang out in woods and tall grass, but it is important to note that ticks have been found in backyards, neighborhood parts, and other suburban areas.

What time of year are ticks active?

Nymphs feed during the spring and summer months – April through July. Adult ticks are most active during cooler months – October until the first snowfall.

Who is most likely to contract Lyme disease?

Children are especially vulnerable to tick-borne diseases because they are physically low to the ground, where the ticks are. Playing in leaves, rolling in the grass, and cuddling with pets increases their exposure. While children are more susceptible to Lyme disease, it can, and does affect people of all ages, especially those who spend a great deal of time in outdoor activities.

Can pets contract Lyme disease?

Animal fur can act like a “tick magnet” and your pet can get Lyme disease. You may become exposed to ticks when you snuggle with your cat or dog, or when you ride your horse. Always check pets for ticks if they spend time outside.

What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?

Within 3 – 30 days, Lyme disease generally leads to flu-like symptoms – fever, chills, headache, and fatigue. Often times, a red, skin rash will appear resembling a bulls-eye. The rash usually feels warm to the touch, but is rarely itchy or painful; it may appear on any area of the body. Some people will get a small bump or redness at the site, similar to a mosquito bite. Only about two-thirds of those infected get the telltale bulls-eye rash, which helps doctors diagnose the disease. This is a main reason Lyme goes unrecognized and untreated for months.

How is Lyme disease diagnosed?

Lyme disease is diagnosed based on symptoms, physical findings (e.g. rash), and the possibility of exposure to infected ticks. Unfortunately, the symptoms of Lyme disease significantly overlap those of chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, and various psychiatric illnesses, including depression. Misdiagnosis with these other diseases may delay the correct diagnosis and treatment as the underlying infection progresses unchecked. Diagnostic testing in the early stages of infection can often give false negatives. Treatment should not be delayed pending a positive test result if the suspicion of Lyme disease is high (exposure, tick bite, possible rash).

What is the treatment for Lyme disease?

In areas where Lyme disease is common, doctors will often prescribe antibiotics if they suspect the disease because diagnostic tests usually miss infections in the first few weeks, leaving patients with worsening symptoms. When left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system. Complications can vary, and can also flare and wane. Symptoms that may come and go, include:

  • Severe fatigue – a “crippling flu-like exhaustion, one that leaves muscles unable to function.
  • Facial or Bell’s palsy (loss of muscle tone on one or both sides of the face).
  • Severe headaches and neck stiffness due to meningitis (inflammation of the spinal cord).
  • Arthritis and severe pain and swelling in the large joints, such as knees.
  • Chronic neurological symptoms, such as shooting pains that may interfere with sleep, numbness or tingling in the hands or feet, and problems with short-term memory.
  • Heart palpitations and dizziness due to changes in heartbeat.

How can you prevent Lyme disease?

  • Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter. Walk in the center of trails.
  • Keep your grass mowed and leaves raked.
  • Apply pesticides if you live near the woods.
  • Place a 3-ft wide barrier of wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas and around patios and play equipment to restrict tick migration in recreational areas.
  • Stack wood neatly and in a dry area (discourages rodents that ticks feed on).
  • Keep playground equipment, decks, and patios away from yard edges and trees and place them in a sunny location, if possible.
  • When outside in grassy or wooded areas, take the same precautions against ticks as you would for mosquitoes. Wear light-colored long pants and sleeves — this will allow you to see ticks that are crawling on you much more easily.
  • Tuck your pants’ legs into your socks so that ticks cannot crawl up the inside of your pants.
  • Apply insect repellent.
  • Shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within 2 hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks crawling on you.
  • Conduct a full-body tick check upon return from tick-infested areas. Use a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body. This includes under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and especially in their hair.
  • Examine gear and pets. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets.
  • Tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour to kill remaining ticks.

How should you remove a tick?

If you find a tick, remove it promptly with fine-tipped tweezers.

  1. Grasp as close to the skin as you can; pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick. This can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin.
  2. Do not handle the tick with bare hands and do not squeeze, crush or puncture the body of the tick; its fluids may contain disease organisms.
  3. After removing the tick, thoroughly disinfect the bite site and wash your hands with soap and water.
  4. Dispose of a live tick by submersing it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet. Never crush a tick with your fingers.
  5. If bitten, save the tick for identification in case you or your pet become sick within two to three weeks. Place the tick in a plastic bag, and put it in your freezer. Write the date of the bite on a piece of paper with a pencil and place it in the bag. Your doctor or veterinarian can use this information to assist in diagnosis and treatment.

Mark Bello is the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company.

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    The ALDF.com/CDC-criminals falsified the case definition of Lyme such that only the arthritis cases may be detected. They did that to falsify their vaccines outcomes. The false case definition has not been prosecuted yet. See more at ActionLyme.org