— Guest Post from Michelle McKeon, MS, President, Lyme and Cancer Services
Bay Area Lyme is happy to share the editorial contributions of care providers, patients, caregivers, and others in the community who are eager to share their knowledge for the benefit of others suffering from Lyme and related tick-borne illnesses. There is still so much we don’t know and so much we are just learning. It is critical that we keep an active dialogue and share and collaborate to continue to move our understanding forward. What follows is an article written by a guest contributor and practicing care provider who shares that view and her personal and professional experience in hopes that it can help others with their healing journeys.
Twilight zone: an area just beyond ordinary legal and ethical limits
Living with tick-borne infections is like crossing over into the twilight-zone. Welcome to the dark side! There is suspense. ‘Is a significant amount of the medical community really not going to recognize Lyme as a chronic disease?!’ There is horror. ‘What? The insurance company just denied my treatment because they don’t deem it to be medically necessary?!’ And, of course, there is a psychological thriller. ‘Is this actually my life?!’
When you are at this point of your journey with late-stage Lyme, it seems as though there is no coming back. Where does one go when they are here? Eight years ago, I asked myself this very question. At this time, hyperthermia treatment was presented as my best option. While already feeling like I was living in an alternate universe, the idea of heating up my body to above 105° F was not exactly the escape plan that I had dreamed of. This led me to my next question…
First West Coast CME Program on Tick-borne Disease Provides New Data, Insights from Researchers
Stanford University School of Medicine and Massachusetts General Hospital host clinical and research forum funded by Bay Area Lyme Foundation
Silicon Valley, CA, September 3, 2019—Bay Area Lyme Foundation, a leading sponsor of Lyme disease research in the U.S., today highlights the first tick-borne disease CME program on the West Coast, Emerging Research, Diagnosis and Treatment of Lyme Disease and Tick-Borne Illness. The conference was hosted by two major academic institutions representing the East and West Coasts of the U.S., Stanford University School of Medicine and Massachusetts General Hospital, and included presentations related to the magnitude of tick-borne disease in California, emerging diagnostic technologies, potential future treatment options, and epidemiological statistics enabled by Lyme disease biobanks.
“There is a lack of understanding about the variety and severity of tick-borne illnesses such as Lyme disease on the west coast” said Charles Chiu, MD, PhD, professor of laboratory medicine and infectious diseases at UCSF, associate director of the UCSF Clinical Microbiology Laboratory, and Bay Area Lyme Foundation Scientific Advisory Board member. “This was a great opportunity to share the latest findings and ongoing research on the topic, so that physicians and other medical professionals can more quickly and accurately diagnose and treat their patients.”
Bay Area Lyme Foundation Tick Testing Program Adds Bartonella Pathogen Assay
Nationwide Free Tick Testing Initiative Will Inform Citizen-Science Studies to Better Understand the Spread of Ticks Carrying Diseases Throughout U.S.
Silicon Valley, CA, July 11, 2019 — Bay Area Lyme Foundation, a leading sponsor of Lyme disease research in the U.S., today announced the relaunch of its nationwide free tick testing program, which will include an assay for Bartonella, a disease-causing pathogen carried by ticks. Based on the success of the Free Tick Testing Citizen Science program, Bay Area Lyme Foundation has significantly increased funding for the 2019 nationwide collection effort, adding an automated submission process and increased research support. Researchers anticipate this citizen- science program will enable the organization to unearth further discoveries.
Results of the first citizen-scientist study were published in the peer-review journals PLOS ONE in 2018, and International Journal of Health Geographics in 2019. The study, which evaluated the prevalence of disease-carrying ticks throughout the United States, and included a massive sample of more than 16,000 ticks collected from 49 U.S. states and Puerto Rico, led to the discovery of ticks capable of carrying Lyme and other tick-borne diseases in 83 counties, in 24 states, where these ticks had not been previously recorded. The program received a six-fold increase in tick submissions over initial estimates, representing unprecedented national coordination of a ‘citizen science’ effort and diagnostic investigation.
If your trail is overgrown and thick with tall grasses (and most are thanks to a very wet Spring this year) … then you need to be aware of TICK HITCHHIKERS…
Unlike their highway counterpart these tick free riders don’t ask, they just grab on as you, your pet (or your horse) pass by. They perch quietly on the grasses and weeds that line your trail or backyard patiently waiting for their next unsuspecting host (and likely meal).
All too easily, you end up taking home a few uninvited guests and if not careful about checking and removing these pests when you return home, you could also end up inviting possible infection into your home.
Ticks carry Lyme disease and many other related infections that can cause debilitating and lasting symptoms. Tick incidence is on the rise almost everywhere, in part due to climate change and wetter, milder winters. If you enjoy the outdoors, you need to be aware of these itinerant nuisances and you need to take precautions to stay safe…
Written by Julia Ries for Healthline on April 4, 2019; Reprinted with permission.
Although spring has just begun, tick season is already well underway. The slew of wet weather seen across the country has ticks crawling out and about earlier than usual. Seeing as most ticks thrive in warm, moist weather, tick season will likely be especially tough this year, health officials predict.
“While regions across the country were either unseasonably cold or warm this past winter, there’s one factor that almost all of them had in common: excessive moisture,” Jim Fredericks, PhD, the chief entomologist for the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), said in the NPMA’s bi-annual Bug Barometer press release.
“From record-setting snow in parts of Texas and Arizona to excessive rain in the southeast, continued precipitation predicted for most of the country this upcoming season will allow pest populations to continue to thrive and multiply,” he said.
– Bonnie Crater, founder and vice-chair of the Board of Directors, Bay Area Lyme Foundation
“I was driving down a road that I’ve driven 1,000 times and suddenly I had no idea where I was or where I was going. So, I pull over to the side of the road to get myself oriented, and then 5-10 minutes later, I remembered and drove to my destination.”
Several friends affected by Lyme have told me of this same experience. It’s caused by the brain fog symptom of Lyme disease, which is often called “mild cognitive impairment” by physicians. I first learned about brain fog when my friend Laure and I founded the Bay Area Lyme Foundation. She explains it like this:
“My nature is to be prompt, attentive and on top of things. It’s important to me to remember people and conversations, and follow up later. Brain fog makes me feel like my brain is muffled with cotton, and it turns me into a “flake” which is very frustrating and hard for me to accept. There are times my brain has been so confused and my spatial awareness is so poor that I’ve actually walked right into a wall. Often, when I am experiencing brain fog, I have to read paragraphs numerous times, and can’t comprehend the content or remember the beginning of the paragraph by the time I’ve gotten to the end.”
As you can imagine, experiencing brain fog—and the cognitive dysfunction involving memory problems, lack of mental clarity, and poor concentration that comes along with it—is very scary for Lyme patients.
Event Raises Awareness, and $1.4 Million for Research Related to Lyme Disease and other tick-borne illnesses, which can potentially be disabling, and even life-threatening
New York, NY, November 6, 2018 – Bay Area Lyme Foundation and Project Lyme, two organizations committed to halting the course of Lyme disease, came together to highlight the need for collaboration in the fight against Lyme during the inaugural 2018 Lyme Gala. The collaboration aims to improve awareness, education, and research of Lyme and other tick-borne infections, which can potentially be disabling, and even life-threatening. With Bay Area Lyme Foundation’s expertise working with scientists and institutions to implement valuable research, develop impactful educational programs and create novel initiatives such as the Lyme Disease Biobank, and Project Lyme’s focus on increasing awareness and improving education, these organizations hope to one day make Lyme and other tick-borne diseases easy to diagnose and simple to cure.
“Lyme disease is the most important health crisis of our time,” said 2018 Lyme Gala honoree, Bill Ford, CEO, General Atlantic. “This disease demands that we recruit and fund the best medical minds to fund a cure, and I am hopeful of the efforts of Project Lyme and Bay Area Lyme Foundation toward this goal.”
The following is a guest post by one of our esteemed Advisory Board members, Lia Gaertner. Lia is a scientist and also a Lyme patient who has turned her own frustrating experience with the disease into a personal mission to help create greater awareness and understanding about the illness. This year’s explosion in tick counts all over the country necessitates extra vigilance for all of us who enjoy the outdoors. Here, Lia shares some of her family’s precautions.
I am proud to serve as a member of the science team at the Bay Area Lyme Foundation (BAL). As a survivor of two severe Lyme infections on both the East and West coasts of the USA, I know quite a bit about ticks and tick-borne infections. During my twelve-year struggle with Lyme and babesia infections, my physician husband and I had to educate ourselves about ticks and tick-borne infections by going to medical conferences, studying with doctors, reading scientific literature, and mostly by experimenting with dozens of tests and therapies (on me). Now, we both receive daily requests from desperate people who cannot find sufficient information on how to treat their tick bite or tick-borne infections.
He shares some important observations on the relationship between our pets and their people, especially in the context of vector-borne pathogens like Lyme disease.
Pets are our companions. They share our lives, our homes and our family time. We often share the mutual love of activities such as hiking or simply playing fetch in the backyard. While companionship is clearly why we have pets, our bond with them is often far greater than we appreciate — we share the same environment and more often than not, the same health concerns. At the top of this list are several vector-borne diseases.