Tick Season Arrives Amid COVID
With everyone focused on how to avoid the virus, it is easy to forget that Fall, with its cooler temperatures and wet weather, is Tick Season. Butte County is home to the Black Legged Tick (Deer Tick) which has been found to carry the Borrelia Burgdorferi bacteria that causes Lyme Disease, as well as other tick related pathogens or co-infections. According to Matt Ball, of Butte County Mosquito and Vector Control District, the tick season in our area begins in the Fall and continues through the Spring until the dry, hot weather returns. When the grass and foliage dry out the ticks go into hibernation. The BCMVD collects ticks in the area and submits them for testing for the most common strain of Lyme producing bacteria, Borrelia Burgdorferi. According to Matt, they are finding not much of a problem in the ticks on the Valley floor but as soon as you go slightly up in elevation, the Lyme carrying Deer Ticks are prevalent. These areas include but are not limited to Upper Bidwell Park, the area surrounding Lake Oroville, Paradise and Magalia. It is important when hiking, hunting, or recreating in these areas that you protect yourself and your pets from being bitten by a tick during the wet, cooler weather. (See illustration) Contrary to what was thought to be true, scientists are now finding that a tick does not need to be attached to its host for a full 24 hours to induce infection and may only need to be attached for a significantly less amount of time to transmit disease. The nymph ticks that can be as small as a poppy seed and are very difficult to see, can actually be the most virulent. A team of researchers at UC Berkeley found that when ticks in California feed on the Common Western Fence Lizard, they are purged of any Lyme Disease bacteria in their guts. The researchers suspect that a protein in the lizard’s blood destroys the microbes that would otherwise flourish in the tick’s belly and can be later transmitted to humans. Therefore, the more mature the tick, the more likely it has fed on the neutralizing protein of the lizard and the Lyme causing bacteria is neutralized.
Where do we find these ticks? An adult tick “quests” for its next blood meal by climbing up grasses and bushes to wait for an animal to pass by. Nymphs and larvae are typically found in layers of decomposing leaves underneath trees. Ticks thrive in damp environments and are less active in hot, dry weather. There are 52 or more species of Borrelia bacteria, so it is important when doing Lyme Disease testing, to test for more than Borrelia Burgdorferi. Many people diagnosed with Lyme disease do not remember to have ever been bitten by a tick. If you get the tell tale “bullseye rash” after being bitten, it is a sure diagnosis for Lyme, says Lyme literate physician Sunja Schweig MD. of CCFMed in Berkeley. The majority of people with chronic Lyme disease are also infected with one or more co-infections such as Tick Relapsing Fever, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Babesia, Mycoplasma, Ehrlichia, Bartonella or Anaplasma. This complicates diagnosis and treatment protocols. A Lyme literate physician will be more knowledgeable about treatment and testing options. Igenex Labs https://igenexlabs.com in Milpitas CA does comprehensive testing for Lyme Disease and other tick borne infections. Their testing has a high degree of accuracy compared with the standard tests recommended by the CDC and ordered by many practitioners as a screening for Lyme. Igenex Labs has information on their website on how to get tested and a Lyme symptom checklist. LymeDisease.org https://lymedisease.org and the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society https://ilads.org both have a searchable Lyme practitioner database and very current information on research and developments on the diagnosis and treatment of Lyme and other Tick Borne Illnesses. New research is showing that herbal treatment protocols can be very effective in treating tick borne disease, used alone or in conjunction with conventional pharmaceuticals. More recently the drug Disulfiram, brand name Antibuse has been showing promise in being effective in treating Lyme disease.
Many of the symptoms of Lyme are similar to COVID – fatigue, headache, muscle aches and general malaise. People recovering from COVID are describing many lingering side effects similar to those experienced by those suffering from chronic Lyme. This can be a confusing mix. Several Lyme literate practitioners are having good success treating COVID patients due to the fact that there are similarities in how it affects the body, producing massive inflammation and the resulting cytokine storm experienced in Lyme patients. Science suggests we can prevent COVID even when defenses fail, states an article by Mary Beth Pfeiffer, quoting the preventative protocol developed by Dr. Richard Horowitz, a prominent Lyme physician and researcher in New York. He has developed a daily, herbal preventative protocol for COVID and is reportedly having good success in its ability to thwart the virus. To view preventative protocol go to https://www.lymedisease.org/pfeiffer-preventing-covid/
The Lyme Center in Chico https://thelymecenter.org provides information about tick borne diseases, local resources and testing options. Lyme can be a very physically debilitating, depressing, and isolating disease due to the myriad of confusing symptoms and involvement of the brain and nervous system. Many patients see an average of 15 – 20 practitioners in various specialties, over several years before getting an accurate diagnosis. Chronic or late stage Lyme is more difficult to treat. It is important to practice prevention and to educate yourself as much as possible about transmission, symptoms and treatment options should you become infected. Locally, The Lyme Center offers a monthly virtual support group meeting and has a “Help Line” for those seeking support and information.
Debra Folsom suffered from debilitating Lyme Disease, being unable to walk for six years. She has now fully recovered and is on the board of The Lyme Center in Chico, giving her time to help others suffering from Tick Borne Illness.