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Add a tick check to your vacation checklist

tick_finger-300Before venturing outdoors this summer, you might want to read “The Lyme Wars” inside the July issue of The New Yorker magazine.

In this article, author Michael Specter explains why Lyme disease - the most commonly reported tick-borne disease in the United States - may be harder to diagnose and cure than mainstream medicine might lead you to believe. (I support this premise based on research I did while working on a Lyme disease documentary.)

One of the reasons behind the diagnostic difficulties is that one tick bite can release many different disease-causing organisms into the bloodstream. As Specter explains:

Some of these infections are more dangerous than Lyme, and more than one can infect a person at the same time. Simultaneous infection, scientists suggest, may well enhance the strength of the assault on the immune system, while making the disease itself harder to treat or recognize.

Above all, the article makes a strong case for more research on tick-borne diseases. One champion of this cause is Brian Fallon, MD, a psychiatrist from Columbia University who researches neurological Lyme disease. He questions the black-and-white view of the disease held by some of his Lyme researcher colleagues:

I am not sure why we act as if we know the answers… The evidence that something more complex is going on is tantalizing and substantial.

But until scientists unravel the mysteries of Lyme disease, the best advice for all is prevention. After summer outings, don’t forget to check yourself and family members for ticks.

Previously: Answers to your questions about wilderness medicine and Diagnosing and treating autonomic disorders
Photo: © Scott Camazine

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