by Dr. Mercola, 22 March 2017
National surveillance for Lyme disease began in 1982 and since then the number of reported cases have grown over 25-fold.1 Between 1990 and 2015, the number of reported cases in the U.S. doubled.2 The disease has also spread geographically.3
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it's the fastest growing vector-borne infectious disease in the U.S.4
The CDC reports the disease, and the ticks that carry the disease, are concentrated in the northeast and upper Midwest.5 Ticks carry more than Lyme disease, including Rocky Mountain spotted fever and human babesiosis, a rare microscopic parasite that infects red blood cells.
Each year approximately 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported to the CDC.6However, this number does not reflect all cases diagnosed in the U.S. Following two studies by the CDC, researchers estimate 10 times that number are infected with Lyme disease each year, for a total ranging between 296,000 and 376,000 cases.
Lyme disease is often called "the great imitator,"7 as it may mimic a number of other disorders, such as arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple sclerosis (MS), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and Alzheimer's disease.
Outwardly, most infected individuals appear healthy, in spite of suffering severe symptoms. Vague and dispersed pain complaints may be misdiagnosed as fibromyalgia.
What Lyme Disease Is and How It's Spread
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection primarily transmitted by ticks that have previously fed on an infected host. However, some top authorities on Lyme disease, like Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt, warn the bacteria that cause the disease may also be spread by other insects such as fleas, mosquitoes, mites and spiders.
Lyme disease remains one of the most serious and controversial epidemics today. The disease usually starts with fatigue, fever, headaches and joint or muscle pain.
It can then progress to muscle spasms, loss of motor coordination, intermittent paralysis, meningitis and even heart problems. Lyme disease was named after the east coast town of Lyme, Connecticut, where the illness was first identified in 1975.
It wasn't until 1982 that Willy Burgdorfer, Ph.D., discovered the bacteria responsible for the infection — a cousin to the spirochete that causes syphilis. They look almost identical under a microscope.
Burgdorfer named the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. The corkscrew shape allows the bacteria to hide in a variety of different body tissues, causing a wide range of symptoms.
The bacteria may also live inside your cells in an "L-form" or coated as a cyst. The ability to change forms explains why diagnosis and treatment is so challenging and why recurrence of symptoms may result after standard antibiotic protocols.
Ticks are not born with the bacteria, but acquire it after feeding on a host. White-footed mice, which are a common carrier, infect an estimated 75 to 95 percent of larval ticks that feed on them. Urban sprawl and reduction in natural predators have allowed the mouse population to quickly multiply, and with them the infected ticks.
The growing number of infections are not surprising, but how the medical community may respond will determine the extent of the damage in the coming years.
Although chronic Lyme disease is more widely recognized as an actual disease, there continues to be resistance in the medical community and with insurers. Sufferers are often told the problem is psychiatric.
Early Spring Is Creating the Perfect Lyme Storm
The majority of time Lyme disease is spread through tick bites. However, it can also be spread by mosquitoes, spiders, fleas and mites.
According to data from the U.S. Geological Survey, spring was scheduled to arrive three weeks early this year for nearly half of the U.S.8 If you love being outside without layers of clothing, this may sound like a good thing. However, the warm weather will also pose public health challenges.
Early spring may have an effect on the spread of insects that spread diseases, such as mosquitoes and ticks. Dr. Aaron Bernstein, associate director of the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health Center, commented on the spread of disease and diseases for which no good treatment is currently available:9
"There's no question that when it's too cold, ticks and mosquitoes cannot thrive. An overall warming trend opens up the chance for them to live in new places and to stay alive for longer periods of time.
We don't want to have to resort to spraying potentially harmful pesticides over large swaths of land to kill mosquitoes, or quarantining people who enter the country from certain parts of the world, or exposing our children to vaccines that haven't been tested thoroughly."
The combination of higher risks of flooding with an early spring, milder temperatures, growing populations of ticks and Lyme infected mice and more people being more active outdoors, may increase the number of people infected with Lyme disease.
Interestingly, the ticks do not get sick from the bacteria they carry. Joao Pedra, Ph.D., studies microbiology and immunology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. He wanted to know what was happening in the ticks' immune system and found several genes necessary for mosquito immunity was absent in ticks.10
Instead of identifying a foreign invader by sugar molecules, a tick's immunity identifies lipid molecules, making them uniquely adapted to handle a bacteria that uses lipids to keep the cell structure intact. Pedra speculates the bacteria may also enable ticks to live through cold weather.
Areas Affected by Lyme Disease in the United States Are Growing