As if anyone needed anything else to worry about, a new study in California has found that ticks causing Lyme disease can be found in large numbers near the beach as often as they are found in woodlands and fields. The study focused on parks in Marin, Monterey, Napa, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and Sonoma counties, where researchers looked for ticks that carry Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria that causes Lyme.
Searching in areas of grass and scrub brush near beaches and woodland habitats revealed that ticks are equally at home near the water as in the woods. The lead author of the study was surprised, as his past work had shown that in the absence of grey squirrels, which are typically the vectors for Lyme in California, the ticks were expected not to have Lyme disease. But the research has shown otherwise.
Researchers found infected ticks in coastal grasses and nearby scrub area near beaches. The ticks in California are only present during the rainy season, which is good for Californians. But Lyme disease is present nationally, and if not treated, can leave to chronic conditions involving the joints, heart, and nervous system.
The researchers went through state, county, regional and national parks throughout several California counties. They found infected ticks in coastal scrub and woodlands. The possible carrier might be voles or rabbits, but whatever the reservoir of bacteria is, people who walk through grasses, scrub, woodlands, and fields need to protect themselves from what can become a serious disease.
Another study reported that ticks carrying Lyme disease could be far more widespread than previously thought in California, Oregon, and Washington.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates some 476,000 Americans are diagnosed and treated for Lyme disease each year. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a skin rash, usually looking like a red oval, known more scientifically as erythema migrans. The most commonly used diagnostic test for Lyme disease reportedly misses as many as 70% of early cases, and the medical community recognizes that there is no one treatment that works for all patients.
People don’t always know that they have Lyme disease. And in an era of COVID, someone who doesn’t see the classic “bulls-eye” rash might think they have COVID and not Lyme.
The CDC also addresses Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome, or PTLDS, which can cause patients to have symptoms of pain, fatigue, or difficulty thinking, that can last for more than six months after they complete treatment of oral antibiotics. It is believed that some patients respond to the Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease, with an auto-immune response that is seen in other infections, including campylobacter (Guillain-Barré syndrome), chlamydia (Reiter’s syndrome), and strep throat (rheumatic heart disease). Others believe the symptoms are proof of a persistent and difficult to treat infection.
Sadly, there is no proven treatment for PTLDS, reports the CDC. Short-term antibiotic works on many cases when Lyme disease is detected early, but long-term outcomes are no better for patients who were given extended treatment with antibiotics versus those who were given placebos. And long-term antibiotic treatment can lead to complications that can be fatal.
Prevention tips for enjoying the great outdoors include:
- Remain on trails and in sand, rather than walking through grasses.
- Wear light clothing and use tick repellent. Don’t stint either—just like you need a lot of suntan lotion to block out harmful rays, you need a generous dose of tick repellent to protect yourself from ticks.
- If you’ve been in areas that might have ticks, check your body up to three days after possible exposure.
- Upon entering your home, take all of the clothing you wore and toss it into a hot dryer.
- Take a shower.
- Take photos of the tick on your skin, if you can stand it, as well as on a white background, like a piece of paper or a paper napkin.
If you find a tick attached to yourself, take a deep breath before ripping it off of your skin. You’ll need to remove it carefully and save it so you or your healthcare provider can send it for identification to find out what kind it is and learn if it is carrying any diseases.
If you have had Lyme disease and are still suffering from the long-term effects of PTLDS and can no longer work, you may need to file a disability claim with your short or long-term disability insurance company. We have represented many people who thought that their Lyme disease would go away and did the best they could to keep working, until their symptoms became debilitating.
Long term disability insurance companies consider Lyme disease and PTLDS a problematic claim, for a number of reasons. There is no clinical test that can confirm the symptoms that result from an infected tick. Bloodwork may prove the presence of Lyme disease, or it may have left the body and led to an autoimmune response that is not clinically indicated. Even with a diagnosis of Lyme disease, many insurers are fighting the severity of impairment due to the condition.
If you are planning to file a short or long-term disability claim, we recommend you call our office to discuss how having an experienced disability attorney may make your claim filing process easier and more likely to succeed. If you have been on claim but recently terminated, we also can help. Call our office at 877-583-2524 to learn what you’re up against and how we can help.