The Washington Times-Herald

January 21, 2014

Ticks are a serious problem

Harold Allison
The Washington Times-Herald

---- — Lyme disease is a malady that none of us want to get. I know some people that now have Lyme disease, and I feel very sorry for what they have to go through. This tick bite disease has increased to the point where up to 300,000 cases are being reported each year.

Watch out for the ticks

For some time it was believed the number of new cases were not being adequately reported or the disease was even being mistaken for some other illness. The jump from 30,000 new cases a year to 300,000 cases is so large that the missed diagnosed theory seems more likely than the huge jump in new cases. Well now we have two new tick bite diseases to worry about.

The first is Powassan that made the news in August 2013 when a young person in the Hudson River Valley of New York died from the tick-borne Powassan virus. The cause of death was encephalitis, which is an inflammation of the brain.

Field reports from the Hudson River Valley have found that up to six percent of the ticks in this region now carry the Powassan virus. Add this to the ticks that have Lyme and we have a major event that may just be right around the corner.

While Lyme disease is bad, Powassan may be even worse. This new disease has a mortality rate of at least 10 percent, and a permanently disabled rate of up to 50 percent. In addition, Powassan disease can be transmitted from the tick to a human in as little as 15 minutes.

The one good news so far is the disease seems to be rare, but will it spread and become more common? Only time will tell.

Feel bad now, just wait, I have more bad news for you. Another new tick-borne disease that does not even have a name yet reached the United States. First reported from Russia in 2010, it has been found in our hard bodied ticks. The bacteria that causes this new disease is called Borrelia miyamotoi, and it enters the bloodstream from the bite of a tick. It has symptoms much like Lyme disease, but has a relapsing fever, not the bullseye rash so characteristic of Lyme disease.

While it is so new, there is still much to learn about this new threat from our ticks. It is believed that Borrelia miyamotoi could exist wherever our hard bodied ticks are found. One bad feature of this new disease is in Lyme, the bacteria that causes it to die along with the host tick. In this new one, the virus is transmitted by the female tick to her eggs.The virus remains in the eggs, and thus it can be transmitted by the young ticks, known as nymphs, as well as by adult ticks.

The fever that develops from this new threat attacks the immune system and causes an antibody that is specific to this Borrelia bacteria. The bad effect is the fever it produces returns each time the immune system has to make a new antibody, and the fever can keep coming back several times.

These new maladies may be hard for the average doctor to tell from Lyme, which also apparently has often been misdiagnosed in many past cases.

It is hoped new diagnostic tests will be able to better identify both Lyme diseases and these two new threats to humans. New diagnostic tests are in development and may soon be available as an aid to doctors in the fight against tick caused diseases.

As wamr weather returns, be sure and watch out for ticks as they are not to be taken lightly. If you do think you have come down with a tick-borne disease, be sure and let your doctor know that you have been bitten by a tick and may need further treatment.

As man has altered the world of nature so much, and as we now have more people than ever, it just may be the start of new diseases that are evolving into major problems for us and future generations. Take it from me, when you desecrate nature it will fight back and it is often a battle we cannot win.