Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Lyme Disease: Up Close and Personal, Part II

While checking my stat counter, I noticed a visitor from the Netherlands, who had been reading my 3/11 blog, so I followed the contact information back to a Google page and found a list of blogs related to Lyme. If the subject is on my mind again, it’s because I devoted my morning to a draft on LD for the Wellfleet Health Department. I had contacted the health agent to request information on the prevalence of Lyme in Wellfleet. Hillary Greenberg reported 19 documented cases in 2005 for a population of 3000 winter residents. We discussed how important education is to increase awareness. Then she asked if I wanted to help with a brochure.

Borrelia burgdorferi has been around since the early 20th century, but was only first recognized in Lyme CT in 1975. For an excellent summary see Dr. Jonathan A. Edlow's book, Bull's Eye: Unraveling the Medical Mystery of Lyme Disease. Lyme has spread fast because of the decline in deer hunting. Writer Amy Tan has chronic Lyme. Daryl Hall of Hall & Oates canceled concerts last summer after his diagnosis. I want guests from abroad to know about the risk.

Dr. Malloy, the arthritis and Lyme specialist in Plymouth, pronounced me cured last fall. In December I saw Dr. Rothfeld at Whole Health New England who wasn’t so sure. He prescribed an herb called Cat’s Claw, as well as boosters for my immune system. It is rather disconcerting when doctors do not agree. There is actually a term to describe this situation in general: the Lyme Wars.

I tend to believe those who maintain that if a patient does not receive appropriate treatment early on, the disease can become chronic. Some say Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome are actually undiagnosed Lyme. Recognizing LD is a challenge since symptoms vary from person to person. More medical professionals should be encouraged to specialize in this new field.

Research is needed, ie. funding for the development of better tests and for the study of alternative therapies. Scientists must come up with more satisfactory prevention methods. Why doesn't some business invest in a machine that attracts ticks, based on the same idea as the mosquito magnet?

I have written two letters to the Oprah show urging Oprah to help focus attention on LD, but so far, no reply. In the meantime, here at Chez Sven, we do our best to avoid ticks. 60% of Wellfleet is National Seashore. There are deer in the park. The ticks they carry have probably even made their way into downtown Wellfleet, deserted in this photo taken today. The beach is the only place in town that is totally safe, although, in the dunes, ticks have been spotted hanging out on beach grass.

Today we started removal of the firewood stored near Seagull Cottage. Mice make their homes in woodpiles. Tick larvae choose mice as their first blood meal. Mice sometimes carry Borrelia burgdorferi. After the larvae feed, spirochetes enter their gut. As nymphs and adults, they can transmit Lyme to humans.

Two of my New Year’s resolutions were making the Wellfleet population, both resident and non-resident, more aware of Lyme Disease, and landscaping our yard to diminish possible tick habitat. Both goals are now well underway.