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Revised Edition - February 2001

Think it doesn't concern you? Think you can't get it? Think again! Statistics indicate that it is the 2nd fastest growing infectious disease in the U.S.A.

Knowing the risks and how to identify Lyme Disease could save your health ...... and maybe your life or the life of someone you know.

One of the major problems with diagnosing Lyme, is the fact that it can exhibit so many different symptoms associated with other illnesses. Symptoms can vary from one person to the next. It can also have seasons of dormancy and then become active again. Delay of proper treatment can lead to other complications that could leave you with physical damage or a chronic case of Lyme for life.

Some reports say the infected ticks that cause this disease are only found in particular locations, while others say they can be almost anywhere ticks can survive.

The questions go on about this elusive, evasive, and virtually unstudied disease. At what country, community or state line does the tick stop? Are all the cases being reported? Is it only contracted through a tick bite? Could it become Epidemic without proper response from health care professionals? Should you be concerned? We think so.

Take every tick bite seriously! It is serious enough that you should avoid any area that might be tick infested and you should know the symptoms of Tick borne illness.

We have a personal interest in this disease since it has touched our family. We never imagined it could be a problem for us and we were shocked to find it a reality. Believe it or not, the deadly tick we encountered did not come from an area where Lyme is considered a risk - nor was it of the tick variety that is most common to transmit Lyme.

Controversy surrounds the issue of diagnosis and medical treatment for Lyme and other tick borne illnesses. There are many opposing opinions in the Medical Community. There have been reports of mis-diagnosis and under treatment and also claims of over treatment.

With so many opposing opinions, we found it necessary to do our own research in order to make good decisions. Things are constantly changing in the area of research and treatment. Medical Science still doesn't know enough about Lyme Disease and other tick borne illnesses. So, we are by no means finished with our research. We will try to present a fair amount of information for your review. There is no need for alarm if you are well informed, take precautions and get sufficient treatment if you are suspected to have Lyme.

What is it?
Borrelia burgdorferi (sometimes referred to as BB) is that dangerous little bacteria (Spirochetes with a corkscrew shape) that causes the infection called, "Lyme Disease."

It was first reported in Europe about 1883. It was officially discovered in the United States around 1975 when there was an outbreak of arthritis near Lyme, Connecticut, USA. and that is where it got its name. Lyme disease has increased dramatically along with the discovery of hundreds of strains of tick borne disease, making it an alarming public health problem.

The tiny deer tick is the primary carrier of this serious illness. The two most well known hosts are deer and mice. It is also reported that this small tick can hitch a ride on birds which means they might be found almost anywhere those birds can fly! The Dog Tick/Wood Tick can also carry the Lyme Organism, but, some opinions indicate that this particular species has a lower risk for transmission. Improperly handled and under cooked deer meat could be another risk factor. Other sources indicate there is a possibility that tick borne infection can be transmitted sexually and also during pregnancy to the fetus. An infected tick is the primary source of infection, but don't forget that there are other suspected methods of transmission.

There can also be concurrent infections from the tick called Ehrlichiosis and Babesiosis. Babesiosis is a malaria-like illness. About a week after a tick bite, you may gradually experience malaise, loss of appetite, and fatigue, followed several days later by symptoms such as high fever, drenching sweats, muscle pain, and headaches. Ehrlichiosis may be transmitted by a tick as little as six hours after it has imbedded in your skin. It causes high fever, severe headaches, malaise, muscle pains, and chills, and may also lead to nausea, vomiting, confusion, and joint pains.

Tick Borne illness is a serious health issue with reports of complications which can result in mild to severe damage to the body and even death in the most severe cases. The greatest caution is for elderly patients, people who are "immuno-compromised," and people who have had their spleens removed.

Recognizing Lyme
There are tests available that may or may not show infection. The testing is helpful as a confirmation for those who test positive. But, getting a negative reading on those tests does not necessarily prove that you don't have it. Many experts estimate that this disease is vastly under reported in statistical figures for Lyme.

It is almost certain now, that the person infected with Lyme may or may not have (or may not remember having) a tick bite or the characteristic red, circular "bull's eye" rash called erythema migrans. While a tick is in its nymphal stage (very young), it is so tiny (like the head of a pin) that you may not even know it was there.

As the Lyme bacteria spreads through the body it can create havoc in tissues, vital organs and joints. The first sign of the disease may be a flu-like illness and may have accompanying fever, headache, extreme fatigue and stiff neck. Other symptoms can include a wide variety of complaints with rashes, arthritic joint pain and swelling. The central nervous system can be at risk, along with the respiratory system and valves of the heart. It can even bring on psychotic episodes when infection reaches the brain.

Early treatment is very important! When Lyme is treated adequately with antibiotics at a very early stage, it appears to have a good cure rate. Extended treatment may be warranted depending on the duration of infection and the person's overall health. The bacteria that causes this illness can grow undetected with symptoms that can mistakenly be diagnosed as another illness. Without proper diagnosis and treatment, it may result in continued damage to the body weeks, months or years after a tick bite.

Some Symptoms to watch
"Bulls Eye Rash" or other unexplained rash or whelps
Unexplained or flu-like fever, sweats, chills or fevers
Unusual fatigue or lack of strength
Difficulty breathing and/or heart palpitations
Elevated blood pressure
Stiffness or pain in muscles, joints, chest, neck or back
Swelling of joints or glands
Gout-like symptoms
Arthritic type pain
Blurry eyes or other change in vision or hearing
Numbness of the extremities or facial paralysis (Bell's palsy).
Change in bowel or bladder function
Testicular or pelvic pain
Stomach or digestive tract upset
Sore throat
Lightheaded, dizziness, confusion, disorientation
Sleep disorders
Mood swings or mental disorders
Twitching of muscles, tremors or shaking
Unexplained milk production or breast pain
Any unexplained or unusual weight change

This is a large list of symptoms that have been associated with Lyme Patients. These symptoms can also be aligned with several other health issues. The possibility of Lyme would likely include several symptoms from the ones listed above. This is not to be used as a diagnosis for Lyme - but, merely a reference point.

Diagnosis and Treatment
If Lyme or other tick borne illness is suspected or being treated, it is quite helpful for the patient to maintain a health chart that will indicate the lifestyle pattern and frequency of symptoms. This could be valuable input toward a diagnosis and/or further treatment. In fact, a health chart is a good idea to keep for diagnosis or treatment protocol for any health complaint.

The issues that relate to diagnosing can be very complicated and it is easy to see how Tick Borne illness can be mis-diagnosed for other illness such as Lupus, Gout, Arthritis, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue and MS.

While missing a proper diagnosis of Lyme is certainly a serious consideration, it is also important to avoid attaching a diagnosis that is not real. One more reason to make sure that the Clinical Diagnosis and treatment involves a doctor who is an experienced expert and who is successfully treating Lyme patients. If one is not available in your area, at least find one that is willing to work as a consultant with your present physician.

Although, the standard treatment includes antibiotics, there are varying opinions among doctors regarding dosage ...what kind, how much and how long. One thing is commonly agreed upon, the earlier you get treatment, the better. Some people are using Alternatives alone and others are incorporating Alternatives (or Complimentary medicines) along with standard treatment. Many medical professionals are recommending a health regimen of particular nutrients and exercise to support recovery. Inadequate treatment can leave your body defenseless against the continued growth of bacteria and the damage that can be done by this disease. So, learn all you can about your options.

There are additional health circumstances that should be considered if Lyme is suspected. Steroids that are often prescribed for other health issues are usually not recommended for patients with Lyme. Steroids can slow the immune system response and this could give the Lyme bacteria opportunity to continue its growth and destruction. Pregnant women should be especially careful since Lyme has been reported to transfer to the fetus.

Vaccine Facts
In January, 1999, came news that the first-ever anti-Lyme vaccine was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The genetically engineered vaccine is suppose to attack and kills the Spirochetes/bacteria in ticks as they feed on you.

Although it was reported to be successful in clinical trials, there is emerging news of induced arthritic symptoms for some people. So, this makes the side effects and reported success rate uncertain. The vaccine does not cause your body to build antibodies against the virus. Continued yearly boosters, after the first 3 to 5 initial doses, is the normal procedure for this type vaccination. Effectiveness is reported lower in people over aged 60, and it has not yet been approved for children under 15.

Should everyone living in tick territory run out and get the vaccine? We can't recommend it with side effects currently under scrutiny by many medical professionals and government agencies. The vaccine can not be considered total protection against Lyme and is reported of no use at all for the other diseases ticks can spread. Characteristically, vaccinations can depress the immune function and that presents another set of issues to be considered. People who definitely should not get the vaccine include people with chronic arthritis, people who are currently being treated for Lyme, and pregnant women.

Dogs can also be infected with Lyme and may show signs of arthritis. There is a vaccine available for pets. We do not know how safe or effective it might be for animals. You will find a resource page below for Pets and Lyme.

Know Your Risks
Are you in an area reported with high infestation of ticks that carry tick borne illness? The highest incidences of Lyme Disease in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), are the Northeast from Massachusetts to Maryland; the North-central states, particularly Wisconsin and Minnesota; and the West Coast, particularly Northern California. But within these areas, the reported level of infestation may vary widely. It also occurs in Europe, Russia, China, Japan, and Australia. Even though other countries, states or communities are not mentioned as a risk factor, they may still have ticks that can infect you.

Approximately 90 percent of all known cases of Lyme disease in the U.S. have occurred in California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin. We have no way of knowing how many cases in these or other locations go unreported or mis-diagnosed.

If you do not know for sure what your risk factor is, contact your local health department for input. However, don't forget......where ever ticks are, there is potential for infection and even if you have had the vaccine, it is not a guarantee against infection. If you have a past history of Lyme, you can still get it again.

Prevention is the Best Medicine
Whether or not you choose to get the vaccine, prevention is still the best medicine when it comes to tick-borne diseases. Take precautions to avoid unnecessary risks, especially from May to September when ticks are most active.

Protect Your Property
Mice, a key carrier of ticks, like to nest in leaves and other clutter that might be found near wooded areas. So, reduce the risk by clearing away leaf clutter on or along your property. Clean up the area between woods and lawn and spray this area with acaricides (tick-killing chemicals). If you are in a known area for high risk, you may even want to move bird houses away from your house. A barrier between your house and the woods might be a helpful reminder. It could be as simple as wood chips between the woods and the lawn.

Protect Yourself when in potential tick areas

  1. Walk on paved or graveled roads and sidewalks instead of in wooded, brushy, grassy, or marshy areas.
  2. Wear protective clothing that can include long-sleeved shirts and pants, tucking the ends of pants into socks or boots. Tuck hair into caps. Taping off gaps in clothing, shoes or other areas that might be vulnerable, is another extreme measure. Wear light-colored clothing (and gloves, if you're gardening) so ticks will be more visible. Spray exposed skin and clothing with sprays you know will work. (Some of the currently advertised products are not adequate.)
  3. When you come indoors, remove clothing in a utility area and place immediately into washer or hot dryer for 30 minutes to kill ticks. Ticks are tiny and can hide in the most unusual places. Shower thoroughly and examine yourself carefully while undressed. Pay careful attention to the places ticks like best - areas such as the groin, armpits, and scalp.
  4. Examine children on a regular basis, and keep your eye on your pets, too. If your dog shows signs of arthritis, you may want to have it tested for Lyme.
  5. If you find a tick attached to your body, remove it by grasping it as close to the skin as possible with a pair of tweezers. Do not squeeze or grasp the body. Pull firmly, but gently in one continuous motion until it comes out being careful not to twist or jerk which can cause it to break apart. Make sure all parts are removed. Don't use alcohol or other preparations on the tick as this may cause the tick to actually inject the BB fluids into the site.

You can save the tick (dead or alive) for testing by placing in a closed plastic bag. If the tick is alive and you wish to get it tested that way, also include a slightly moistened piece of paper towel. If you want to have the tick tested or blood tests on yourself, choose reliable labs to do the work.

Boston Biomedica, Inc.(BBI) ~ Clinical Laboratories
http://www.bbii.com ~ 1-800-676-1881
IGenex, Inc. ~ Reference and Research Laboratory
http://www.igenex.com ~ 1-800-832-3200
Other Information Sources:
American Lyme Disease Foundation: 1-914-277-6970
CDC - Center for Disease Control
International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society
Lyme Disease Audio Network
Lyme Disease Foundation: 1-860-525-2000
National Library of Medicine
Noah Health Site on Lyme:
Pets and Lyme:
Books on Lyme:

We appreciate our associates for their contributions to this newsletter. Please feel free to forward this newsletter on to anyone who might benefit from the information.

Please note: the information contained herein has been compiled from various sources. The above statements have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. We make no claims, either expressed or implied, that any treatments mentioned in this newsletter will cure disease, replace prescription medication, or supersede sound medical advice.

The Olive Branch
P.O. Box 1421, Lawrenceville, Georgia 30046

Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans by the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system. Lyme disease is diagnosed based on symptoms, physical findings (e.g., rash), and the possibility of exposure to infected ticks; laboratory testing is helpful in the later stages of disease. Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with a few weeks of antibiotics. Steps to prevent Lyme disease include using insect repellent, removing ticks promptly, landscaping, and integrated pest management. The ticks that transmit Lyme disease can occasionally transmit other tick-borne diseases as well.

Read more: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/lyme/index.htm

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