Ticks are emerging earlier from winter hibernation and remaining active for more weeks of the year as the climate is warming, according to public health experts. The result is that Americans’ risk of infection from pathogens carried by the outdoor pests is increasing.
Covering Lyme disease can be a complicated endeavor. It’s hard to diagnose, and it’s even more difficult to decide what to call the ongoing symptoms. Janice Lynch Schuster reported on the controversy in The Washington Post, discussing both Lyme disease and its aftereffects.
According to the American Lyme Disease Foundation, Lyme disease, a bacterial infection spread by deer ticks (also known as blacklegged ticks), can cause fever, chills, and severe joint pain. However, detecting a tiny tick is a challenge, and the famous red bull’s-eye rash associated with Lyme-carrying tick bites doesn’t always occur. Many people suffer symptoms for months without a diagnosis, and those suffering the effects of Lyme disease are frequently brushed off by health care professionals, who dismiss symptoms as psychosomatic or stress-related.
As if that weren’t enough, the 300,000 people thought to be infected with Lyme disease each year may suffer chronic symptoms such as body pain or “brain fog” even after diagnosis and antibiotic treatment. Experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that 10 percent to 20 percent of people who are diagnosed with the disease and complete a two- to four-week course of antibiotics will “have lingering symptoms of fatigue, pain, or joint and muscle aches,” known as “post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome.”
However, other experts are quick to dismiss the idea of post-Lyme syndrome. It’s important for journalists writing about Lyme disease to understand the disagreement in the medical community over these lingering effects.