Lyme Disease Spread Speeded By Climate Change? How To Prevent This Life-Altering Disease

Christina St Jean - Author

Jan. 10 2017, Updated 1:03 p.m. ET

Lyme Disease is an inflammatory illness that’s spread through infected mice or deer, yet it would appear that not much is known about it. Classed as a borreliosis, the illness is spread via the infected mice or deer and then onward to human hosts most commonly through a tick bite, according to the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation. Lyme Disease is most treatable at Stage 1, or just a few days after infection; the problem is, while a tick bite is often easily recognized by a red bulls-eye style rash, a quarter to a half of all infections don’t have the rash.

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Also, according to STAT, it seems that Lyme Disease is being spread more quickly as a result of climate change. Katharine Walter, a graduate student in the Department of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases at Yale University, is currently studying about Lyme Disease and said that because North American climate has gradually gotten warmer, tick eggs hatch sooner and due to the more rapid maturation of the insect, they are able to begin feasting on human blood sooner rather than later. She also said that because humans try to eliminate the possibility for bugs in their lives, we have a tendency to believe we are immune to the dangers of a tick bite, though in reality, we are at risk.

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“The barriers we have created — the heated, cooled, and (somewhat) bug-free spaces we inhabit — give us an artificial sense of immunity to the disturbances shaking our fragile ecosystems,” Walter writes.

In addition, because Lyme Disease mimics over 350 other diseases, the disease is often misdiagnosed and therefore mistreated, leaving countless individuals struggling. reports that more than 50,000 cases of Lyme Disease have been diagnosed since the illness became a reportable disease in 1986. Unless a doctor considers ordering a blood test that specifically looks at Lyme Disease, though, the person with the symptoms, which might include unexplained swelling, achiness, and palpitations, among other problems, may find they are struggling to get proper treatment for months, if not years.

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People can avoid tall grass or heavily wooded areas – two favorite locations for ticks to hang out – in order to lessen their chances of getting a tick bite and therefore leaving themselves exposed to Lyme Disease. However, STAT reports that ticks are not generally known for respecting barriers that we might establish in order to escape the possibility of a tick bite. That, in turn, leaves us vulnerable to “ecological changes brought about by climate change, habitat fragmentation, and deforestation,” according to Katharine Walter.

If you are bitten by a tick, though, how do you remove it? How do you know if you have been bitten by one if there may not be a rash at the site of the bite?

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The Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation recommends wearing long pants and sleeves if you are going walking in the woods, and if you are walking with a friend, it is also recommended that you watch each other’s backs and brush off any ticks immediately once you have noticed them. There are now other strains of borrelia that can cause Lyme Disease, and there is also the chance that the mother can pass the bacterium on to its larvae, which means humans could be at even greater risk for infection, as bacteria can hatch in the thousands.

Burning or smothering ticks is no longer recommended as safe removal techniques of ticks. Instead, a pair of fine tip tweezers are recommended, or a straw and knot. If you happen to be near a doctor’s office, you could also go to the doctor, get a shot of Xylocaine at the site of the bite, and watch as the tick crawls away, looking for a better tasting site to grab on to.

Cases of Lyme Disease first appeared in a wooded suburb near Lyme, Connecticut in 1976 and have rapidly been on the rise. Lyme Disease is an illness that can have life altering effects on many individuals in any one family. While it may be difficult to conceive how one tiny insect can wreak so much havoc, prevention and proper removal of these ticks is absolutely necessary in order to quickly prevent Lyme Disease from having a field day with your body.

(AP Photo/Mike Groll)


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