Many Montanans know that contracting Lyme in Montana is rare but possible. Either through knowledge of pathogens and vectors, disease ecology, or personal experience with Lyme disease.
I am quite ‘biased’ on the matter, having contracted Lyme disease. Multiple patients, some of whom have shared their stories here (with multiple more ready and willing to share with media to raise awareness) share this bias and this experience.
This study examines self reported cases — a beginning step patients feel should be taken by state health agencies immediately.
Concluding their study, the team recommends: 1. establishing a statewide tick surveillance program to discover what ticks reside in Montana and what pathological agents they carry; 2. assuring that state-of-the-art two tier testing for Lyme disease is available and that healthcare providers know of it; 3. encouraging health-care providers to include Lyme disease in the differential diagnosis of the patient with symptoms of the disorder; and 4. participation in meaningful and related research.
As is often the case with Lyme-related questions in this region, this question has two important parts. One being which are we contracting within this geographic area, and the other being which are we contracting anywhere else that we travel to?
It’s challenging, but important, to distinguish the relative importance of each part of the question. As a patient in a time-sensitive quandary, it doesn’t matter where we contracted the illness as much as it matters that we can get timely and adequate diagnosis and care. But a current obstacle to both in this region, unfortunately, is the assumption that contracting it here is not possible, because it serves as a very large distraction and obstacle, regardless of where the exposure occurred.
The fact that you ‘can’t get it here’ is, sadly, often the only answer the patient receives–an untimely and unjustified end to what should be a lengthy discussion including a number of important questions.
This is a problem, of course, because we need medical care either way, and it needs to occur quickly to avoid the risk of permanent harm to the patient.
So the importance of proving we can contract Lyme in the Rockies is partly to overcome the wrong assumption that it is not a risk here, but also to overcome the biases among doctors that lessen the chances of due consideration of the likely cause of symptoms that present ‘just like Lyme disease’ but ‘can’t be Lyme disease’ (in most cases until the patient is able to travel out of state for a more informed opinion*, which is usually not happening fast enough to avoid long term consequences).
Continue reading Which Borrelia Strains Are We Contracting in the Rockies?
This graphic by Jill McAllister is extremely meaningful, as it provides information not currently available in terms of geographic distribution of Lyme and Lyme infected ticks.
Some of these locations, although across the border, are not really all the far from where I was bit in 2010 (various maps will be constructed over time). As you will read elsewhere on this site, distribution estimates and maps can be dangerously misleading if they do not depict associated levels of detection effort. As is seen time and time again (with North Dakota serving as a highly relevant example) the areas where we are not finding Lyme coincide with areas where we are not yet, or not adequately looking.
Lyme disease is a serious tick-borne illness caused by bacteria of the genus Borrelia, corkscrew-shaped spirochetes. Symptoms include fatigue, chills, fever, headache, muscle and joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes, and sometimes a bulls-eye rash. If not diagnosed and promptly treated with antibiotics, later stage Lyme progresses to increasingly debilitating symptoms. These symptoms may include Bell’s palsy, meningitis, pain and swelling in the large joints, sleep disturbances, and/or Lyme carditis.1 Although CDC estimates about 10 to 20% of patients report continuing symptoms after treatment, or Post Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome (PTLDS), other researchers believe the percentage is higher.
Continue reading A Call for Increased Lyme Disease Research Funding ~ Guest Post By Elaine Hallisey
To answer the questions that matter most, we need to identify them and we need to frame them properly. Many of the most critical questions in regards to Lyme disease diagnosis and treatment in our region are not being asked (at least not when, where, or by whom they need to be), are not well framed, are based on poor assumptions, or are all of the above.
In cases where there is information patients don’t have access to, or haven’t found, that would answer these questions, the questions are still essential in seeking it, finding it, or asking for it, as well as for assessing it.
Ticks, it turns out, are a prime example of unasked questions impacting and inhibiting patient care (directly and indirectly, as there are additional paramount influences further discussed in later articles).
Continue reading Tick Distributions Example ~ Asking the Right Questions
Not really. At least, not just yet.
But we are building a preliminary map, for which we currently need your assistance. If you have lived with or may have contracted Lyme disease in the Northern Rockies (MT, WY, ID, ND, SD, BC, ALBERTA, SASKATCHEWAN) please share the location here. (You can find other ways to help us in the short term, including awareness opportunities here and via other groups, by watching for related pages and requests, including our first request linked here.)
We are certainly wondering about those things in the title (though we are not implying we can actually tackle these questions here). The actual purpose of this article is illustrate that we have reasonable expectations regarding the value vs. limitations of the information our initial map will provide and the importance of asking and answering the right questions over time.
Continue reading Estimating Distribution, Abundance, and Medical-Care-Migration Patterns Of Northern Rockies Lyme Disease Patients?