I would like to share the knowledge that I have acquired as a result of my first-hand expertise on a very important and widely misunderstood topic. Tick-borne illnesses represent a broad spectrum of bacteriological infections, one of which is broadly recognized as “Lyme disease.” Ever since a cluster of families in Lyme, Connecticut first suffered varying but unexplained symptoms back in 1975, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has been in denial about either the existence or the number of people infected, citing peer-reviewed medical studies conducted by physicians and scientists on the payrolls of the pharmaceutical and managed health (insurance) industries.
Family physicians have widely misdiagnosed tick-borne illnesses or depended upon the highly unreliable ELISA and Western Blot blood tests that the CDC endorses. Unless a patient was “lucky” enough to display an erythema migrans (the bull’s eye rash that does not always appear, does not always look like a bull’s eye, and does not necessarily appear at the location of a tick bite) that the CDC accepts as a definitive sign of infection, physicians tended to treat the symptoms rather than the underlying causes.
Since the early days, doctors who specialize in trying to help Lyme disease patients have frequently been subjected to formal complaints, typically initiated by the health insurance providers who do not want to pay for treatment and who have the CDC’s denial on their side, often leading to the suspension or revocation of their licenses to practice medicine. Often out of fear, as well as the lack of information, general practitioners generally throw up their arms or grasp at any diagnosis that might explain away the classic symptoms, uselessly prescribing painkillers, steroids, or perhaps a short dose of antibiotics.
In my case, over the course of decades of occasional tick bites, primary care physicians repeatedly told me that I tested negative (the nearly useless ELISA tests) and explained away my symptoms. Pain in my hands was written off as rheumatoid arthritis, being continually tired was written off as chronic fatigue syndrome (an imaginary illness) and spending too much time in front of a computer screen, pain in my joints was written off as “tennis elbow” and too much exercise, and pain in my neck was written off as sleeping on a bad pillow. Due to a combination of a very strong immune system and a high tolerance for pain, my symptoms were generally manageable. On two occasions, when the fleeting pain in my limbs became overwhelming enough for hospital emergency room visits, the puzzle pieces were not assembled and there was no diagnosis.
It was not until early in the summer of 2019 that I experienced a flare-up of most of the classic symptoms of Lyme disease – including the definitive rash – after being aware of another tick bite. Fortunately, it was a Sunday, so I went to a nearby urgent care clinic, where the physician’s assistant on duty immediately recognized the rash and symptoms, prescribing three weeks of antibiotics. I called my (former) primary care physician’s office afterward, asking to be tested for co-infections, and the office never returned my call.
On that first round of antibiotics, after an initially violent immune system reaction, many of my symptoms subsided, and I started an odyssey of reading everything I could find on the subject of tick-borne diseases. Certain that I was suffering from co-infections, I searched out a nearby specialist who ordered what are probably the only blood tests that are truly effective at flagging antibodies to the various diseases. The results indicated that I am infected with two active strains of borreliosis (Lyme disease) and six serious co-infections, some of which have been present and undiagnosed for decades. I am now on a long-term treatment program that includes multiple antibiotics, probiotics, powerful herbal regimens, and herbal compounds to support my immune system. (It turns out that the roots of the invasive Japanese knotweed plant – highly revered in Japan, Korea, and parts of China – are a miracle herb, higher in resveratrol than anything else on the planet.)
I am probably one of the fortunate few who are now on what is nonetheless a long road to recovery. Tick-borne illnesses usually have a much more debilitating effect upon infected children and the elderly, where symptoms are quite often misdiagnosed (and mistreated) as Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Part of the problem is that different people have different symptoms, co-infections require different treatments, and chronic (long-term) infections are much more difficult to treat than acute (recent) infections.
A Few Facts
- Although usually referred to as insects, adult ticks have 8 legs and are actually arachnids, more closely related to spiders.
- All types of ticks are infected, not just one as was originally believed. This includes hard-bodied ticks, soft-bodied ticks, deer ticks, dog ticks, and every other type of tick.
- Most ticks carry a laundry list of infectious bacteria, not just the Borrelia burgdorferi that cause Lyme disease.
- The same diseases can also be carried and transmitted (though less commonly) by mosquitoes, biting flies and fleas.
- Infected ticks are endemic throughout the United States (and most of the world), not limited to New England, the Mid-Atlantic, Upper Midwest, and West Coast as is often believed.
- A tick can transmit the disease spirochetes into your bloodstream within 10 minutes, not the 24-36 hours that is commonly believed.
- The Borrelia bacteria are spirochetes, highly adaptive organisms that respond to antibiotics by evolving into resistant cysts and forming biofilms.
- The bacteria spend little time in the bloodstream, finding their way into ligaments (hence the common joint pains) and tissues, favoring the knees, brain and heart.
- You can be infected by a tick in any stage of its development – larval, nymph, or adult.
- Ticks most commonly feed on mice and deer; however, they are known to feed on well over 100 host types, including lizards and birds. Migratory birds have helped to make the diseases endemic. Check your dogs and cats when they come in from the outdoors!
- Lyme disease is not new. Remember the 5,300 year old ice mummy found in the Austrian Alps back in 1991? That corpse contained Lyme disease DNA.
- Ignore the conspiracy theories and quack cures found on the Internet.
Sounding the Alarm
If you run a campground, you are probably spending a significant amount of time outdoors doing things like raking leaves, cutting brush, and cleaning sites. Perhaps you hunt, fish, hike, golf, or pursue other outdoor activities in your leisure time. Ticks prefer moist woodland environments, tall weeds and grasses, edge zones (such as the roughs on a golf course), and places such as stone walls and wood piles. If you are spending time in any of these environments, it is recommended that you treat your outer clothing, footwear, and camping gear with permethrin solution which will kill ticks within 10-20 seconds. It is also recommended that you use an effective tick repellent when outdoors. DEET is commonly recommended, but there are equally effective herbal compounds that are safer to use. Whether or not you are aware of having been bitten by a tick, if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms, pain in your joints (particularly knees and elbows), pain that seems to migrate from one part of your body to another, headaches, a stiff neck, swelling in your knees or other joints, a feeling of always being tired, or memory problems that are often described as “brain fog,” seek out a Lyme disease specialist. Lyme-related diseases represent one of the fastest growing epidemics in the United States today, and they are not to be taken lightly.
This post was written by Peter Pelland