As this year’s tick season shapes up to be a ruthless one, different regions in the United States are gearing up for a potentially greater prevalence of Lyme disease and other tick-borne conditions. A warm February this year gave ticks an early head start this year, even when spring has just started.
Bruce Shilton, formerly a lawyer and Newmarket court judge, looks back at the tick bite that gave him Lyme disease about 20 years ago and has changed his life since.
Struggling With Lyme Disease
Back in 1998, Shilton was bitten by a black-legged tick and made him sick with Lyme, with the effects manifesting today in his liver, gall bladder, and kidneys.
While no longer stuck with excruciating pain, he shared about no longer being able to think clearly and get through the day without massive fatigue and bouncing from one doctor and failed treatment to another.
“I’ve been to just about every specialist out there. You run out of inventory. You see a chronic fatigue specialist, an endocrinologist, a nephrologist, a cardiologist… You finally end up with a psychiatrist and they say, ‘you’ve probably got depression,’” he told YorkRegion.
He had to hazard a guess: every Lyme disease patient likely has “secondary depression” from his or her disappearing life and the brunt of costly yet ineffective treatments.
In 2015, Shilton thought he was improving, and he was fueled by hopes of returning to his successful law career. But he suddenly regressed and became housebound once again.
Today while he keeps trying different therapies such as essential oils and homeopathic pellets from abroad, he is still stumped two years after a private members bill was passed in Ontario Legislature, mandating a so-called “Lyme Action Plan.”
There are a number of developments — such as nonprofits like Global Lyme Alliance raising funds for research — but there’s still no clinical testing over alternative treatments, he added.
“It’s pretty sad,” the former courtroom judge mourned. “Boredom is brutal, when you go from my old life to this.”
Climate Change, Other Factors In Lyme Prevalence
Lyme disease is characterized by rashes, swollen knees, and facial paralysis. It is a difficult disease to diagnose, and when left untreated could lead to severe conditions including memory loss, chronic arthritis, and heart rhythm irregularities.
Remaining one of the most common kinds of vector-borne diseases in the country, it has recently made an early appearance in the East Coast, with climate change suspected to be an underlying factor.
June and July, according to Dr. John Aucott of the Johns Hopkins Rheumatology Lyme Disease Research Center in Baltimore, are the usual months when Lyme arrives. At this time, ticks are still at an undeveloped stage and can move from one wild host to dogs and humans.
Now, with climatic variations, Lyme is seen to be stronger, with rising temperatures playing a role in the reproduction of mice. These creatures are the known homes of the Borrelia burgdoferi carrying the disease, as well as the tick spreading the infection to humans.
Mice also better multiply with the cutting down of trees and the fragmentation of forests for building homes and industrialization, experts warned.
There are several proper ways to deal with tick bites, especially as not all black-legged ticks are infected with Lyme.