If there’s any disease that needs an awareness month, it’s Lyme Disease. According to the CDC, about 300,000 people contract Lyme disease every year. However, Lyme is often misdiagnosed, meaning that many people aren’t even aware that they have it.
This tick-borne illness has earned the nickname “The Great Imitator,” because Lyme disease signs and symptoms mimic many other diseases, including depression or mental illness, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, and multiple sclerosis.
In addition, the typical diagnostic tests for Lyme are not always accurate, so a negative test result doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t have Lyme. According to LymeDisease.org, someone may test negative for Lyme if there hasn’t been enough time for antibodies to develop, if the immune system is suppressed, or if the person has a strain that isn’t measured by the test. The Lyme disease testing procedure fails to diagnose roughly 54 percent of patients.
During Lyme disease awareness month, The National Capital Lyme Disease Association, LymeDisease.org and other support and advocacy organizations work to raise funds and educate the public about the signs and symptoms of Lyme disease and how we can fight it.
This month, we at DC Mosquito Squad are taking a brief look back at the history of this confounding disease in the United States.
Lyme disease has been around for thousands of years, and it was first discovered more than 130 years ago by a German physician. However, the disease was only recognized in the U.S. in the 1960s, and the bacteria that causes it (Borrelia burgdorferi), wasn’t officially identified until 1981.
- A group of people in Lyme, Connecticut were suffering from inexplicable and severe health issues, with symptoms like skin rashes, fatigue, and headaches.
- Despite frequent doctor visits, these people went undiagnosed and untreated for years.
- Two mothers in Connecticut began observing the symptoms, conducting research, and seeking out the help of scientists.
- Eventually, doctors began to study the symptoms to look for causes, and it was revealed that each patient had recalled being bitten by a tick.
- By the mid-1970s, researchers finally recognized this new disease, Lyme, but they didn’t know what caused it.
- In 1981, Dr. Willy Burgdorfer, a scientist studying Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, found a connection between the deer tick and the disease.
- He discovered that spirochete, a bacterium carried by tick, was causing Lyme. The bacterium was named Borrelia burgdorferi in honor of Dr. Burgdorfer.
- Doctors began using antibiotics to treat the disease. This treatment is still used today, and has been mostly successful.
- Reported cases of Lyme increased dramatically and the disease became a major public health problem.
- In 2012, Lyme disease was listed as one of the top ten notifiable diseases by the CDC.
- Lyme disease is now one of the fastest-growing vector-borne diseases in the U.S.
- It has now spread from the East Coast to every state, excluding Hawaii.
- Diagnostic tests are still not as effective as they should be, and there is no cure for late-stage Lyme.
Lyme Disease is a scary disease for those who have been diagnosed and for their loved ones. The current insufficiencies in the diagnosis process remain chief reasons why the new early detection test for Lyme is being studied at George Mason University and could be game-changing.
We at DC Mosquito Squad are always working to protect families from a variety of disease-carrying pests, including ticks. In order to win the battle against Lyme Disease here among Washington DC’s exploding tick population, we believe education and preventative measures are crucial.
Source: The Bay Area Lyme Foundation