These could be my words, my story. Well said, Katina Makris. Thank you.
Lyme Disease – A Campaign Issue That Stays
Katina I.Makris, CCH, CIH
The Romney/Ryan campaign promised action towards thwarting the spread of Lyme disease, an exploding national infectious illness. The media railed back, purporting that chronic Lyme disease is a mere delusion. Yet, people are sick and concerned for contagion in their own neighborhoods.
Since it was first recognized in 1975, this tick-borne illness has been highly politicized and contentious; wide-ranging symptoms making it difficult to diagnose and treat, earning Lyme ‘The Great Imitator’ moniker. The CDC and the Infectious Disease Society of America recognize acute Lyme- the achey, flu-like symptoms occurring right after a tick bite, but deny Lyme manifests as a chronic illness.
I’ve seen the devastating effects of chronic Lyme too many times, and have lived through it myself. Countless victims of this insidious illness have spoken to me. On a June night in Massachusetts, a standing room only crowd; newspaper reporters, doctors, board of health members converge, stricken citizens voice their messages:
“ My health has deteriorated for 15 years, with apparent fibromyalgia, Bells palsy and dementia. Only last year did lab work prove I have had lyme all along,” an infuriated woman explains.” A single mother, her young son bedridden with paralyzed limbs, says “Famous hospitals had no answers. Fortunately, a savvy physician recognized the neurological form of Lyme and 9 months later on IV antibiotics, he is able to ride a bike again.” These are real people, with a real disease, who need real help. Lyme is not the ‘’illness du jour’.
The Lyme-causing bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, is cork-screw spirochete, akin to syphilis. If not treated promptly, the spirochete disseminates throughout the body, burrowing into soft tissues, joints, the nervous system and organs, triggering auto-immune responses and inflammation, resulting in diverse symptoms from vertigo to arrhythmia to mental illness. Authorities agree that acute Lyme is arrested with simple antibiotics, while long term forms brew a sea of controversy, as a documented consistent cure is nonexistent.
With commercial Lyme lab tests exhibiting a 65% false negative error rate, finding Lyme knowledgable doctors, who know to use one of the USA’s diagnostic specialty labs is difficult. Certain states have stripped physician’s licenses for long term antibiotic use, despite clinical evidence of success. On the other side of the fence, thousands of patients do not adequately regain their health, even after years of expensive multi-pharmaceutical combinations. These tragedies only underscore the necessity of more timely research and treatments options.
Most doctors do not necessarily think to test for Lyme believing it does not exist outside of New England. But ticks, the prime vector for Lyme, are found everywhere in the U.S, having spread as a result of global warming and migratory bird patterns.
A woman from Tennessee told me she removed 14 ticks from her husband, 5 with bulls-eye rashes, after clearing brush. Their physician said ‘This isn’t Lyme disease, we don’t have that illness here. It is only found on Cape Cod.” Her husband went on to suffer crippling migraines, joint pain, and depression and can no longer work. But, as the world warms and different infected tick species move comfortably into new habitats, we should be especially alert.
In 2011, 35,198 new Lyme cases were reported by the CDC, representing a 40% increase over the number reported in 2006. Additionally, the CDC acknowledges that the true number of Lyme cases is probably ten times higher, translating to an estimated 3,000,000 Americans shuffling around our health care system in various states of misdiagnosed illness over the past ten years alone. (Klempner et al. 2001). Mismanaged Lyme disease is over burdening the medical community, the insurance industry and wrecking lives.
Renowned Lyme specialist, Alan MacDonald’s 1980s studies proved that 70% of Alzheimer patients tested positive for the Lyme-causing spirochete, and proof that Lyme could cross the placental barrier, putting the fetus at risk. Yet, a 100% accurate borrelia culture test and more private research into this area could not get governmental financial backing. The position of the IDSA remained unchanged: Lyme disease was a short term infectious illness and any patient complaints made after the brief antibiotic treatment were non related or a ‘’post syndrome’. (Burrascano 2012)
Western society experiences a massive life-altering epidemic—HIV, polio, tuberculosis—approximately every 30 years. HIV exploded into our lives in the 1980‘s, when Lyme was still an unsuspected acute illness. Covertly, Lyme pirated its way into our backyards, as who ever saw the pin sized deer tick nymphs creeping across their back or scalp? Are we sitting in the crosshairs of the potential epidemic of the 21st century having ignored its ugly saber strikes? Tick borne organisms could be the lock and key ingredient to many of mankind’s chronic ills.
Having lived in heavily infested Massachusetts, Romney maybe more Lyme aware, or his personal connection with conservative notable Michael Farris, who has watched Lyme chip away at his wife and seven children, may bring it home. But who cares? The partisan rhetoric shouldn’t obfuscate basic medical funding for a disease that does not discriminate against any American; age, economic status or political party included.
Katina I. Makris, CCH, CIH is the author of “” Out of the Woods, Healing Lyme Disease, Body, Mind & Spirit”, Elite Books, 2011.