Almanac

News - September 11, 2013

Guest article: CDC reports Lyme disease bigger risk than thought

By Ana Thompson, executive director, Bay Area Lyme Foundation, Portola Valley.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported that Lyme disease is a much more significant health risk than previously thought, with as many as 300,000 new cases each year.

Lyme is a miserable disease that if left untreated or misdiagnosed, can lead to a lifetime of suffering.

The CDC's report confirms what many have suspected for a long time — that Lyme disease is a significant public health concern. While the reports indicate that the bulk of cases are in the Northeast, we Californians should pause before we take that sigh of relief.

The fact is, Lyme disease has been reported in California and 48 other states. The California Department of Health reports that the Western black legged tick, which transmits Lyme disease in California, has been found in 56 counties, and ticks testing positive for the bacteria have been found in over 40 counties.

At Bay Area Lyme Foundation, through a grant to Stanford's Woods Institute, we have been documenting Bay Area tick infection rates. There is no question that Lyme is here, along with several other nasty co-infections.

Luckily, the overall tick infection rate has not reached East Coast levels and the number of human cases is low — for now. Let's keep it that way by understanding: (1) the environments ticks prefer (wooded, more humid); (2) that in California tick season is year-round; and (3) that there are steps you can take (dressing properly, tick checks, and more) to lessen exposure.

You should know the symptoms and the absolute importance of early treatment.

Visit bayarealyme.org for more information.

Californians can take the lead in solving this Lyme crisis by finding reliable diagnostic tests that will ensure early treatment and a cure for those still suffering. Right now, diagnostic tests are woefully inadequate, meaning you could wait many weeks until you know or worse, be misdiagnosed and not treated.

For too long, research for Lyme disease has been neglected, receiving $1 in per patient funding compared to $910 for West Nile disease, for example. Lyme research has not benefited from the world class research institutions in our state or the technology and talent of Silicon Valley.

We Californians can change that and there is reason for hope. Since Bay Area Lyme Foundation started a little over a year ago, we have been impressed by the pockets of innovation we have found in our own backyard and worked hard to apply those to Lyme disease.

Fundraiser

The Bay Area Lyme Foundation will host its second annual Polo for Lyme benefit from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 13, at the Menlo Circus Club in Atherton.

Visit tinyurl.com/Lyme-113 for more information.

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