Lyme Disease Can Be Fatal Despite Its Unlikelihood

According to a recent meta-analysis that was published in BMJ Global Health, up to 14.5 percent of the world’s population may have already had Lyme disease. The statistic, which horrifyingly illustrates the global toll of the tick-borne sickness, was calculated by researchers who examined 89 previously published studies.

According to data from the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the prevalence of Lyme disease nearly doubled between 1991 and 2018. (EPA). Nearly four reported cases per 100,000 persons were present in 1991; by 2018, that figure had increased to around seven instances per 100,000 people. Approximately 470,000 Americans are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria that most frequently causes Lyme disease, is transferred to people by the bite of an infected blacklegged tick, usually referred to as a deer tick. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, these particularly little ticks are frequently found in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Upper Midwest, and Pacific Coast (NLM). According to the CDC, once infected, a person may have brief flu-like symptoms like fever, headache, and exhaustion as well as the characteristic bull’s-eye rash that can show up in as many as 80% of Lyme disease cases. Rarely, when Lyme disease is neglected, a person may develop long-term, sometimes fatal consequences, including as inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, severe headaches, neck stiffness, and joints.

According to Scott Weisenberg, MD, an infectious diseases specialist at NYU Langone, some patients may not exhibit any Lyme disease symptoms at all, meaning it’s possible to be infected and unaware of it.

The new estimate presented by the BMJ Global Health analysis underscores exactly how large of a burden Lyme disease is on public health, even while experts have been aware of the rising case numbers of tick-borne infections generally. According to Dr. Weisenberg, “Those figures are definitely greater than some people imagined.”

What could be the cause of the increase, then? According to the EPA, experts cite climate change as a significant contributing cause. The expansion of tick species in previously hostile areas is probably a result of rising temperatures across the United States and the entire world. The EPA states that temperature “significantly influences” deer ticks in particular.

The fact that a person’s risk may be significantly influenced by their place of residence is likewise not surprising. According to a recent analysis, those who lived in rural areas had a greater rate of positive Lyme disease tests than those who resided in urban areas. Ticks like wooded, brushy, and grassy locations because they can readily find “hosts” like deer, rabbits, and rodents to eat; these areas can resemble deep forests, lush backyards, or even green spaces in large cities.

The researchers noted that Lyme disease “has emerged as the most prevalent tick-borne zoonotic illness worldwide since its discovery in 1975… Preventive actions are therefore required.

In particular, if you live in or spend a lot of time in an area where ticks may be present, you should periodically check yourself for ticks. According to Dr. Weisenberg, it can take up to 36 hours or longer after a tick attaches to the skin for the bacterium that causes Lyme disease to actually be transmitted to a human. This is why it’s crucial to get rid of the tick as quickly as possible if you discover one attached to you.

Then, keep in mind that when you’re spending time in nature, employing an insect repellent is essential. Make sure it contains an EPA-registered chemical like DEET or picaridin. In the searing summer heat, it is preferable but not always practical to cover any exposed flesh with long pants, long-sleeve tops, high socks, and a cap.

“Everyone desires to be outside. Simply keep an eye out for these tiny ticks if you plan to go camping or trekking, advises Cleveland Clinic internal medicine specialist Daniel Sullivan, MD, to SELF. That could be difficult at times. Again, ticks are tiny, but he claims that by checking frequently for them, you can significantly reduce your risk of getting Lyme disease or other diseases spread by ticks.

And whether you reside in a wooded area or ventured outside the city for a weekend stroll, it’s imperative to visit a doctor if you experience strange symptoms after a tick bite. Your chances of a speedy recovery are increased by a prompt, correct diagnosis and appropriate treatment, which in the case of Lyme disease would be a brief course of antibiotics.

Related: