Tag Archives: outdoors

Rhony Heather Thomson Biting Back Against Lyme Disease

‘Rhony’ Heather Thomson “Biting Back” Against Lyme Disease

May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month and we’ve launched a Bite Back Against Lyme campaign in partnership with Heather Thomson, one of Bravo TV’s “Real Housewives of New York City.”

Thomson, who has never had Lyme disease but said she has “pulled many a tick off of myself and my family,” says she “stands for the bitten, but I represent the unbitten.”  An outdoor enthusiast, Thomson said she wants to help GLA “take back the outdoors.

In an effort to raise awareness about how vulnerable individuals and families like her own are to Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses, she will do three brief grassroots videos and tweet Lyme prevention tips to her followers throughout the month.

“My family and I have escaped any issues because of awareness and education. We check ourselves regularly [for ticks] and take action swiftly,” said Thomson, who has a home in the Berkshires. But “I know countless others, several of whom have gone undiagnosed for too long, creating severe complications and concerns. They never saw a tick, never saw a rash, and never had a clue of this tiny but mighty insect that had infected them.”

Among those suffering is Thomson’s Bravo TV colleague Yolanda H. Foster, of the “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” franchise, who has publicly shared her battle with Lyme disease. Foster was first diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2012 and recently called her ongoing struggles with Lyme-related neurological issues a “nightmare.”

Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne disease in the U.S. with over 300,000 new cases diagnosed in the U.S. each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). When caught early, Lyme can usually be treated successfully with antibiotics. However, there are no reliable diagnostic tests for the tick-borne disease, no tests to prove that Lyme bacteria have been eradicated or that an individual is cured.

According to the CDC, up to 20 percent of individuals treated for Lyme fail the short-term treatment and become chronically ill. They continue to experience symptoms such as severe arthritis, persistent fatigue, impaired vision, memory loss and other cognitive problems.

“We’re delighted that Heather wants to raise awareness about Lyme disease,” said GLA Chairman Robert Kobre. “Awareness and prevention are the best weapons against tick-borne diseases. We appreciate what Heather’s celebrity can bring to the cause.”

10 Top Myths About Lyme Disease

10 Top Myths About Lyme Disease

Lyme disease has become one of the fastest growing epidemics in the nation. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, there are more than 329,000 new cases in the U.S. each year. But getting the facts about Lyme disease isn’t always easy.

Here are some of the biggest “myths” about the illness—and the information you need to protect yourself, your family and pets from tick bites so you can safely enjoy the outdoors.

Myth #1:  Lyme always causes a bulls-eye rash.

FACT:  Although most people associate Lyme disease with the bulls-eye-shaped “erythema migrans” (EM) rash, less than 50 percent of patients develop one. Early stage Lyme may manifest as a mild flu-like illness with a headache, a stiff neck, or a rash that’s so pale or oddly positioned that it’s barely noticeable. If you get a rash, it’s just as likely to look like a simple rash that is easily mistaken for a skin infection or spider bite.

Myth #2: Lyme is an East Coast illness only.

FACT: Although it’s more prevalent in the Northeast and Midwest, Lyme disease has been reported in all 50 states and is a problem around the globe. It is endemic in parts of Europe and Asia, Australia and Canada, and is even found in the Amazon region of Brazil.

Myth #3: You’ll know when you’ve been bitten by a tick.

FACT: Ticks have a numbing agent in their saliva so you don’t feel anything when one first bites you. You probably won’t even know a tick is feeding. Most people don’t ever recall seeing a tick latched onto them.

Myth #4: Ticks die in winter.

FACT: Many people believe that ticks die in winter, but that’s not true. Temperatures have to drop below 10 degrees Fahrenheit for a long time in order for ticks to start dying, and thanks to climate change that’s not the reality even in the northern states anymore. Although this past February was the coldest month on record for many Northeast and Midwest areas, the heavy snows paradoxically provided a layer of insulation for blacklegged ticks that are now questing for blood as the weather warms up.

Myth #5: You have to be near deer to be exposed to deer ticks.

FACT: If you don’t see any deer and think the coast is clear, think again. Blacklegged ticks (commonly called deer ticks) carry the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. They feed on small mice, chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits, birds, deer, and even on dogs and cats

Myth #6: Ticks fall from trees.

FACT: Ticks don’t jump, fly, or drop from trees. They crawl up. If you discover a tick on your head or back, it’s probably because it latched onto your foot or leg and crawled up your body and not because it fell off a tree branch. Minimize your exposure by tucking pant legs into socks and shoes, wear long-sleeved shirts, and tuck your shirt into pants to keep ticks on the outside of clothing.

Myth #7: Hiking and camping are the most common ways to catch a tick-borne disease.

FACT:  It’s important to make tick bite prevention an important part of your outdoor plans whether you are gardening, camping, hiking, biking, or just playing outdoors. Although black-legged ticks live in moist and humid environments, particularly in or near grassy or wooded areas, they will cling to brush and shrubs and live in lawns and gardens, especially at the edges of woods and around old stone walls.

Myth #8:  If the blood test is negative, you don’t have Lyme. 

FACT:  Tests for detecting Lyme disease are often inaccurate. At present, your doctor will probably recommend two-tiered blood testing requiring a positive ELISA test result. Doctors commonly order an ELISA first to screen for the disease, then confirm it with a Western Blot. The ELISA measures the total amount of antibodies produced by the body in response to the Lyme bacterium (Borrelia burgdorferi). However, it may miss over half of Lyme cases because antibodies may not be high enough yet to detect, giving a false-negative result. 

Myth #9: Antibiotics cure everyone within two to three weeks.

FACT:  Studies show that as many as 20 percent of patients continue to exhibit symptoms even after they complete antibiotic treatment. What’s more, many of these individuals turn out to have co-infections transmitted by the same ticks that gave them Lyme. These co-infections don’t always respond to treatments for Lyme disease itself.

Myth #10: You can remove a tick with a match or by painting it with nail polish

FACT:   Forget any advice you’ve heard about holding a match to the end of a tick, swabbing it with nail polish or suffocating it with petroleum jelly.  You want to remove an embedded tick from your body. The easiest and safest way is to pull it gently out with tweezers. Grasp the tick close to its head, then slowly lift it away from the skin. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth parts to break off and remain in the skin.

Hidden Dangers In The Cold Fall & Winter by Bob Oley

Just when you were breathing a welcomed sigh of relief that the cold fall and winter weather would bring an end to the unforgiving spring and summer tick season, think again. Thanks to a protein in their bodies that works like antifreeze, ticks survive cold temperatures remarkably well, and can be found looking for a host to bite such as you whenever the temperature is above freezing and the ground is not frozen or covered with snow.

YEAR ROUND PROBLEM COAST TO COAST

Ticks have become a year round problem from the east coast to the west coast all across the country for a variety of reasons, most important of which, there just are so many more of them out there. And though the ticks you find in the fall and winter months are somewhat different than the ones you find in spring and summer, they can make you just as sick with Lyme disease or any number of other tick-borne diseases if you are on the receiving end of their bite. In the spring and summer months, depending on which part of the country you live in, you generally have to deal with a collection of ticks including deer ticks, Western blacklegged ticks, American dog ticks, brown dog ticks, Lone Star ticks, Gulf Coast ticks, Rocky Mountain wood ticks, or Pacific Coast ticks. But come the fall and winter months, some of these tick species become inactive for a period of time (diapause) until the warmer temperatures of spring return. However, those that do remain are no less dangerous than the warmer weather ticks they took the place of in how very sick they can make you. These cold-weather ticks include the well-known deer tick if you live in the eastern two thirds of the country, and the brown dog tick, western blacklegged tick, or Pacific Coast tick if you live in the western third of the country. The only upside to this seemingly never-ending tick dilemma is that these remaining cold-weather ticks are usually the adults, and because they are bigger (about the size of a sesame seed) than the immature stages of ticks, they are somewhat more easily detected when crawling on you. The downside is, that because these adult ticks are older than the immature tick stages, they are also more likely to be carrying disease organisms in their bodies that they can pass on to you with their bite.

ENJOYING THE GREAT OUTDOORS—A CATCH-22

So how do you enjoy the great outdoors, whether as a participant or as a spectator in a recreational activity, when the reality is that when outside you have to be continually on your guard against ticks. You are likely to find ticks in substantial numbers in the woods, in leaf litter, at the transition edge (ecotone) of the woods with grassy, brush and garden areas, on and along stone walls, in brush and leaf piles, on tree stumps and logs, along hiking and walking trails, golf courses (especially in the rough), in dog parks, and high shrub and grass areas. Considering where ticks can be found, what common outdoor fall and winter activities can be assumed high-risk for tick bites? Unfortunately for us, these activities are pretty varied and can include such pursuits as yard cleanup and end-of-season gardening, raking leaves, jumping in leaf piles, playing in your own backyard, participating in sporting events like soccer and football, watching sporting events from the sidelines, picnicking in the park, camping, golfing, hunting, hiking, pumpkin picking, Christmas tree cutting, etc. Avoiding these hidden dangers is key to preventing getting bitten by a tick and becoming infected with a tick-borne disease. But if you cannot avoid these risky tick infested areas, there are certain prevention measures you can take to better protect yourself and your family.

PREVENTION MEASURES TO EVADE TICK BITES

When outdoors, it is recommended that you wear tick repellent clothing. The clothing should be treated with permethrin, an insecticide that can be purchased from most large sporting goods stores. Permethrin repels and kills ticks and has been approved by the EPA as safe for use on clothing apparel worn by both adults and children. You can treat your own clothing and footwear, or purchase pre-treated clothing with the proprietary Insect Shield label from suppliers such as: REI, LLBean, ExOfficio, Orvis, etc. Once per month you should also spray outdoor shoes, athletic gear, tennis bags, back packs, camping gear (anything that could end up on the ground outside) with permethrin to keep the ticks away. Wearing an EPA-approved insect repellent on exposed skin parts will also provide added protection, but by itself, does not work as effectively as tick repellent clothing At the end of the outdoor activity or certainly by the end of the day, you should conduct full body tick checks of yourself and family members who go outside. Be sure to check some of those places you are more likely to find ticks – those more moist parts of your body between your toes, behind your knees, in the navel, groin area, on your back, under your arms, back of neck, behind and in your ears, within body or neck skin folds, or on your scalp. You can never check too often, as ticks can be very hard to find. And if you do find a tick attached to you, safely remove it and seek the advice of your health care giver regarding treatment options as soon as possible. Time is of the essence. Save the tick, dead or alive and place it in a zip-lock bag. Different types of ticks carry different disease organisms, and there are labs in this country where the tick can be mailed which will identify the tick for you and test it to see if it is carrying pathogens which you may have been infected with. If you follow these recommendations and use good common sense when engaging in outdoor fall and winter activities, you can sidestep these hidden tick dangers and avoid becoming sick with very serious diseases such as Lyme disease and other tick-borne infections.