The CDC is catching up with something that patients have known for a long time, ie, that Lyme disease is more common than most health professionals have realized.
This week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed that roughly 300,000 Americans catch Lyme disease each year, ten times more than it had previously suspected. Until now, patients and doctors were told that there were about 30,000 cases a year. But Paul Mead, M.D., M.P.H., chief of epidemiology and surveillance for the CDC’s Lyme disease program, now admits:
“We know that routine surveillance only gives us part of the picture, and that the true number of illnesses is much greater. This new preliminary estimate confirms that Lyme disease is a tremendous public health problem in the United States, and clearly highlights the urgent need for prevention.”
Easier said than done. Ticks are everywhere, even in cities. They are not always easy to detect. People may not even realize they have been bitten. Once bitten, there is not always a rash. Symptoms may creep up slowly so that a patient might not realize for weeks or months that something is seriously wrong.
People have been told that Lyme is primarily restricted to the northeast and upper Midwest. Here is a list of the states that, according to the CDC, account for 96% of all reported cases.
States Where Lyme Is Common:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New York
The CDC admits, however, that it has vastly underestimated the number of cases of Lyme that occur each year by an order of magnitude (as much as 12 fold). These public health officials have known for years that doctors underreport Lyme. As a result, we suspect that Lyme is found in a lot more states than the 13 mentioned above. In fact the CDC acknowledges that cases have been reported in nearly every state. The agency is quick to point out that many people are bitten in another state and travel home to a state where Lyme is uncommon or virtually nonexistent. That said, the CDC’s own map (from 2011) suggests that there is Lyme in other states including:
- North Carolina
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
Doctors who may not have looked at the CDC map or county-by-county confirmed case count may assume that Lyme is not a problem in their area. For example, we have heard from various health professionals that there isn’t enough Lyme in North Carolina to worry about. We disagree.
We are convinced that Lyme is a risk in many more states than most public health officials realize. And Lyme is not the only concern. There are many other tick-borne disease to consider. The CDC lists the following on its website, along with the ticks that transmit them:
Anaplasmosis (Ixodes scapularis)
Babesiosis (Babesia microti)
Ehrlichiosis (Ambylomma americanum)
Powassan virus (Ixodes scapularis, Ixodes cookei or Ixodes marxi)
Rickettsiosis (Amblyomma maculatum)
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (Dermacentor variabilis, Dermacentor andersoni or Rhipicephalus sangunineus)
Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness (STARI) (Ambylomma americanum)
Tickborne relapsing fever (TBRF)
Tularemia (Dermacentor variabilis, Dermacentor andersoni or Amblyomma americanum)
And then there is Bartonellosis. The CDC doesn’t mention that the bacteria that cause this condition (Bartonella) can be caught from ticks, fleas and biting flies (including sand flies). Bartonella has been known as cat scratch disease for years and was thought to be a short-lived infection. There is now growing recognition, however, that Bartonellosis can be transmitted by a variety of arthropods and can be both hard to diagnose and very hard to treat.
In fact, many of these tick-borne diseases can be harder to diagnose and treat than many health professionals have realized. Physicians have believed for decades that a short course of antibiotics can knock out most infections. Ten days or two weeks of treatment are supposed to do the trick. That is often true for pneumonia, urinary tract infections, sinusitis or even Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. It may not be as true for Lyme disease or Bartonellosis.
One of the most controversial issues in medicine today is chronic Lyme disease. A recent article in the Boston Globe titled “When the ‘cure’ doesn’t end the pain” suggests that “up to 25 percent of people treated for Lyme disease report lingering symptoms, lasting from days to years.”
Many doctors are doubtful. When patients complain about fatigue, weakness, brain fog, joint pain, dizziness, confusion and neurological symptoms, they are sometimes told they are suffering from a psychosomatic disorder. Infectious disease experts, the health professionals we rely on for a deep understanding of bacterial infections, have been especially skeptical. The bacteria that are responsible for Lyme are often hard to detect after antibiotic therapy.
But many patients, and even some doctors, believe that the bacteria can hide and resist antibiotic therapy. To learn how this process can occur, we suggest you take a few minutes to listen to our free bonus interviews with B. Robert Mozayeni, MD, and Edward Breitschwerdt, DVM. The title for this show is “Ticks, Fleas & Mystery Disease.” The mystery disease is Bartonella, a fellow traveler with other tick-borne infections such as Lyme. You will be fascinated to learn about the nature of this condition and how Dr. Mozayeni is successfully treating his patients. Be sure to click the arrows for the two bonus interviews to get the entire background on this mysterious tick-borne disease.
Here are a few comments from listeners:
“Thanks for airing this and helping to get the word out. I am a patient of Dr. Mozayeni’s and have had Bartonella. He is an amazing doctor. If it wasn’t for him I don’t know what would have happened to me.
“Every other doctor kept telling me that nothing was wrong and that I looked too good for there to be something wrong despite my symptoms.
“I am so glad that I found him and was able to get treatment. Hopefully more doctors will learn about this and help the number of patients that are suffering.” A.S.B.
“This broadcast was eye-opening and the information profound! My parents are in their late eighties and both have suffered tick bites. My dad has been diagnosed as having lyme disease, treated, and told it was cured. My mom has a tick bite place on her leg which has never totally gone away after many years. They are told repeatedly by their family doc that ‘they are eaten up with arthritis’ …his exact words. They experience all the classic symptoms mentioned. I know this because I spend a lot of time with them.
“I myself have cats and dogs and have endured flea & tick bites, as well as biting flies. I too have all the symptoms mentioned and my doc is starting to tell me it is just part of getting older.
“That answer does not satisfy me. I too would like to explore bartonella more thoroughly although it may be out of the question for my elderly parents. THANK YOU for opening my eyes wide on this matter.” Linda
“Finally a program that deals with this complex issue!
“Bartonella has ruined my life. I am not yet 40 years old and experience muscle twitches of varying degrees, neurological issues(tingling, numbness, and more), unable to speak at times, have cognitive issues, joint pain, and on top of all that I feel I live in what I call ‘crazy town.’ I feel I will never be healthy again.
“I was a tri-athlete but now my life has been diminished of so many aspects of ‘normalcy.’ AND I have been on various antibiotics for over 2 years. I get better for a few weeks then wham I am further back then where I was before. I had someone ask me the other day if it is terminal and at times the pain is so bad I believe it is.
“I am lucky to have a loving husband. But at times he too has had enough and hates what this disease has done to me. It has put a deep strain on our marriage and my kids just want to see me happy again.
“I am grateful to have turned on the radio just at the right moment. Otherwise, I would have continued going down the spiral of self doubt and self hate.
Please keep educating people and maybe just maybe the CDC will see it as an epidemic.” R.O.
Here is a link to the story about Bartonella, its diagnosis and treatment.
Share your own tick story below.