Experts say that this spring and summer could see a record number of cases of Lyme disease, along with a new disease carried by ticks that is even more dangerous than Lyme disease. A surge in population of white-footed mice that followed a large production of acorns—six to ten times more than usual—means an increase in the number of ticks that transmit these diseases.
The mice are one of the favorite hosts of ticks and each one can carry dozens of Lyme-disease infected ticks. Scientists are working to get the word out so that people can take precautions to protect themselves and their children.
A mild winter alone would have fostered an increase in the tick population, but when combined with an excessive number of acorns, known as a mast, the increase is expected to be exponential.
The CDC expects the actual number of Lyme disease cases to be more than 10% of what’s reported.
Early symptoms of Lyme disease are the same as a flu virus, so people aren’t always tested for it. Lyme disease causes fever, fatigue, joint pain and often, a bulls-eye rash around the location of the bite, which is often how people realize that they have Lyme disease. If treated early and with the appropriate antibiotics, Lyme disease can be cured. But if it is not treated early enough or properly, Lyme disease is a devastating illness that can impact the circulatory and nervous systems, causing chronic problems.
Lyme disease can lead to serious illnesses, including cardiac and pulmonary issues, cognitive dysfunction, neuropathy, severe joint pain and swelling that mimics rheumatoid arthritis, Bell’s palsy and depression. Some patients suffer from severe fatigue and headaches that never go away.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, cases of a far deadlier disease carried by ticks that live on deer have already been reported in the Northeast and Great Lake states. POW, or Powassan, causes inflammation of the brain, with 10% of cases being fatal and 50% of cases leading to permanent disability.
Using tick repellants, wearing long sleeves and pants while outdoors and doing thorough tick checks after coming in from outdoors are ways to reduce the risk of becoming infected with POW or Lyme disease.
Many Lyme disease patients are unable to work and file a disability claim. Even though Lyme disease is a well known illness, it is still raises a red flag for adjusters, similar to what happens to people with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The claim is challenged, often denied on the first submission, with the presumption that the person is malingering.
Disability claims for Lyme disease require medical documentation that supports the diagnosis, and must support the symptoms and link them directly to the disease.