The Exchange
9:00 am
Mon August 18, 2014

More Ticks Means More Concern About Lyme Disease

Lyme disease: caused by a bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi, and transmitted by the tiny black-legged tick, it’s an infection that first causes fever, chills and flu-like symptoms. And if untreated, it can lead to chronic exhaustion, arthritis-like pain and even irregular heartbeat.  Although first detected in Lyme, Connecticut in the early 1970s, the disease has spread to thirteen states, with New Hampshire leading the country for highest rate of Lyme infection.  And if that’s not bad enough, more ticks that cause the condition have been found this year in areas of New Hampshire where they haven’t been found before, leading many to amp up public warnings and increase ways to educate, treat and prevent the disease.  (digital post by Faith Meixell)

Credit beeldmark / Flickr/CC

GUESTS: 

  • David Brooks – reporter for the Telegraph of Nashua. He writes the "Granite Geek" column and has written several articles on Lyme disease.
  • Beth Daly – chief of the Infectious Disease Surveillance Section at New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services
  • Elizabeth Talbotassociate professor of infectious diseases and international health at Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth and deputy state epidemiologist for New Hampshire

CALLOUT:

  • Alan Eaton – UNH Cooperative Extension Entomologist and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Specialist. Alan has been studying ticks and Lyme disease in New Hampshire for two decades.

Credit CDC

LINKS:

  • NHPR environment reporter Sam Evans-Brown reported on this year's tick population: "Lyme risk is high right now because tick nymphs – the young form of the insect – are active, and because they are about the size of a poppy seed, they are really hard to see. There may be more ticks this year because a blanket of snow kept them not so much from freezing, but from drying out."
  • An infographic from NHPR's Sara Plourde: "With tick season in full swing - and this year being described as the worst in recent history - the risk of tick bites and tick-borne infection is high. Read through the graphic below to learn more about ticks, the infections they can carry, and how to prevent being infected yourself."
  • David Brooks' article on Lyme disease vaccines: "exaggerated concern about the vaccine’s side effects, the byproduct of a debate about “chronic Lyme disease” that continues to this day, produced poor sales that led the manufacturer to abandon the business in 2002"
  • Interview on Fresh Air with Michael Specter, author of the 2013 New Yorker article "The Lyme Wars": "The other problem that I think is even more pernicious is that some people get treated, and they don't get better. And this is not a large percent, but with the disease, it's growing. Five percent is a bunch of people, and they have tremendous problems. I mean, I've run into so many sort of devastated people who tried everything, who took the antibiotics, who tried all sorts of other both recommended and not recommended approaches, and they don't get better."
  • UNH Extension map of black-legged ticks in New Hampshire
  • Lyme disease information from the National Institutes of Health: Important facts about tick bites and Lyme disease: In most cases in the U.S., a tick must be attached to your body for 24 - 36 hours to spread the bacteria to your blood. Ticks that cause Lyme disease in Europe transmit the bacteria more quickly, within 24 hours; Blacklegged ticks can be so small that they are almost impossible to see. Many people with Lyme disease never even see or feel a tick on their body; Most people who are bitten by a tick do not get Lyme disease.

Related Program