Climate change and Lyme disease

The Daily Climate, September 22, 2014

“Her day was getting up, eating if she could, then crawling back to bed.”

As Lyme disease spreads in the U.S., those in its path cope with a debilitating, bewildering array of maladies, misery and afflictions.

Richard Gardiner had no option but to shut down his law practice in Fairfax, Va. in the summer of 2012. A fit 60 year-old, he came down with a high fever and the worst chills he had known in his life. He spent a miserable summer bedridden with aches and debilitating fatigue.

At around the same time in Bozeman, Mont., 12-year-old Noelle Freeburg – described by her mother as a “healthy-as-a-horse” tween who enjoyed dancing, swimming and skiing – became feverish, dizzy, and doubled over with stomach aches every time she tried to exert herself.

In different corners of the United States, this middle-aged man and middle school girl were embarking on the same frustrating, costly journey. It took both of them months to learn why their health was deteriorating. They were patients on the frontiers of North America’s expanding Lyme disease epidemic.Read more at The Daily Climate, or browse below.

 Nasty tick-borne diseasesThe nasty, scary world of tick-borne disease

Ticks that spread Lyme disease don’t always deliver their misery neat. They can serve up a cocktail of pathogens with one infectious bite.

“They are nature’s dirty needle,” said Kathryn Fishman, who suffered for years from fatigue and mental confusion before blood tests revealed she had Lyme and two other lesser-known pathogens…. The wide array of potential diseases ticks carry is one reason that public health officials remain greatly concerned about the geographic spread – linked to both global warming and suburbanization – of the black-legged tick and other ticks in North America… “Lyme disease is the tip of the iceberg,” cautioned Durland Fish, epidemiologist at Yale School of Public Health. “There are worse diseases coming down the pike.” Read more.

Vett Lloyd saved the tick that latched onto her while she was gardening outside her home in New Brunswick, Canada in 2011.

A biologist who specialized in cancer genetics, she plucked the blood-sucking creature from her skin and sent it to the local public health office to have it tested for the dangerous bacteria she knew it could carry.

But officials told her not to worry, Lloyd said. Lyme disease was exceedingly rare in the forested maritime province northeast of Maine. The tick was tossed untested.

The next year brought agony: Fatigue, fevers that would come and go, aching joints, and finally, trouble lifting her arms or walking.

Lloyd indeed had Lyme disease, but as with many Canadians felled by the tick-borne illness, her diagnosis and treatment were delayed because of a system slow to acknowledge that public health risks were changing as the climate warmed. In a concession that many patients say is overdue, Canadian authorities now admit that the most common vector-borne disease in the United States is an “emerging” threat north of the border. Read more.


gestational_lymeCatching Lyme disease in the womb?

Justine Donnelly’s medical journey began the day that her mother’s 30-year quest to solve her own health mystery ended.

The 26-year-old Pilates instructor in Charlottesville, Va., who had all her life suffered from poor memory and anxiety, received a text message from her mother, who had just been diagnosed with Lyme disease, suggesting that she be tested for the disease.

“That was definitely bizarre,” Donnelly recalls. But it turned out to be wise advice.

She did, indeed, test positive for the tick-borne bacteria that causes the most prevalent vector-transmitted disease in the United States. But Donnelly’s doctor believes she did not contract Lyme in the usual way, through a tick bite. Instead, he suspects the disease was passed to her in the womb from her mother, who lived with undiagnosed Lyme disease for three decades. Read more.