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Study Finds Lyme Disease Widespread in Bay Area Open Spaces

Some simple precautions can be taken to avoid being bitten by ticks and potentially infected with Lyme disease or other tick-borne illnesses.

—By Bay City News

Lyme disease is more widespread in Bay Area open spaces than previously thought, according to the results of a new study announced today by Stanford University researchers.

The study, called "Tick-borne Pathogens in Northwestern California," also revealed that Bay Area ticks carry a second bacteria, previously undetected in the region, that can bring on flu-like symptoms in infected humans, such as relapsing fever and severe aches and pains, according to Dan Salkeld, a disease ecologist at Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.

"It had been seen before in a couple of places around the Northwest, but we had no idea it was in California," Salkeld said.

The two strains of bacteria were found by researchers who fanned out into 12 open space preserves in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties and dragged big white blankets through woodlands, grasslands and chaparral environments, collecting ticks that stuck to the material, Salkeld said.

Lyme disease and the second pathogen—known to scientists by its scientific name Borrelia miyamotoi—were detected in around two percent of ticks that stuck to the white blankets, Salkeld said.

While the pathogens were detected in a far lower percentage than in the Northeastern U.S., where around 35 percent of ticks are carriers, it was still a higher result than many people expected to find in the Northwest.

"A lot of people think you just can't get Lyme disease in California," Salkeld said. "It's often under the radar, so sometimes it takes a really long time for the disease to be diagnosed."

If left untreated, Lyme disease can cause severe rashes, fever, joint pain, and debilitating arthritis, Salkeld said.

A group of concerned citizens in Portola Valley and Woodside started the non-profit Bay Area Lyme Foundation after several residents came down with the disease, but did not have it appropriately diagnosed for months.

"It often goes under the radar here," Salkeld said. The Foundation funded the Stanford study to begin to understand just how common Lyme disease is in the region.

"Lyme disease is widespread throughout the Bay Area," Salkeld said. "We found it in every single (test) open space, and every type of terrain."

For Bay Area residents who take advantage of the vast array of parks, trails and open spaces in the region, some simple precautions can be taken to avoid being bitten by ticks and potentially infected with Lyme disease or other tick-borne illnesses.

Hikers, walkers and bikers should try to stay in the middle of trails, avoiding brush, woodpiles and logs, Salkeld said.

After spending time outdoors, residents should check themselves thoroughly for ticks, especially their hair.

Pets should also be thoroughly checked for ticks after a walk in the woods, Salkeld said.

Anyone who develops symptoms—fever, headaches, rashes or fatigue—should consult a doctor familiar with Lyme.

Copyright © 2014 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.
Tina McMillan February 20, 2014 at 03:51 PM
One of the most difficult treatment issues with Lyme Disease is denial in the medical community about the long term effects. ========================================== Lyme is a complex condition. Some people have been exposed to Lyme through multiple tic bites over an extended period of time. They don't necessarily show positive for Lyme but can still exhibit symptoms. http://www.lymediseaseassociation.org/images/NewDirectory/Resources/Printables/SymptomList_2013.pdf ========================================== http://lymedisease.org/lyme101/lyme_disease/lyme_treatment.html Two Standards of Care "The medical community has not yet agreed upon the best treatment for Lyme disease and the debate has been heated. There are two schools of thought on Lyme treatment, one promoted by the Infectious Disease Society of American (IDSA) that recommends two weeks of treatment for early Lyme and doesn’t recognize chronic Lyme, and the other promoted by the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS) that recommends individualized treatment, based on patient response to treatment." ========================================== "The IDSA thinks Lyme symptoms after treatment represent a possibly autoimmune, “post-Lyme syndrome” that is not responsive to antibiotics. ILADS physicians believe that on-going symptoms probably reflect active infection, which should be treated until the symptoms have resolved. These physicians are using the types of treatment approaches employed for persistent infections like tuberculosis, including combination treatment with more than one antibiotic and longer treatment durations."
M. Manzano February 21, 2014 at 11:03 AM
Pyrethrines are a good deterrent for ticks and fleas. Wear boots and jeans. Treat them and your dogs with a light spray before going on a hike. You people who let your dogs run off leash, please stop it! Not all dogs are going to get along.
Tina McMillan February 21, 2014 at 01:07 PM
It's also dangerous for dogs to get exposed to ticks which they will running off leash. If you stick to fire roads it is easier to avoid them. Many hikers want the experience of going deeper into trails. Even with boots and jeans you would be surprised how easy it is to pick up a tiny deer tick. http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7485.html
SM February 21, 2014 at 01:16 PM
It is nice to finally see some attention and research being conducted here in the Bay Area regarding the prevalence of Lyme Disease. Infected ticks have shown up in almost ALL counties within California and almost ALL states within the US. Lyme is easy to catch if you are a frequent user of open space, yet a difficult disease to diagnose and a difficult disease to treat and eliminate from your body. Our "standard" medical doctors are not trained in diagnosing Lyme and therefore many, many cases are misdiagnosed as Rheumatoid Arthritis, ALS, MS, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Lupus, etc.. When in fact as the years progress without proper treatment and the persons body becomes riddled with the Lyme bacteria they are experiencing extreme joint pain, extreme body aches, fatigue, continuous low grade fevers, unable to think clearly, constant headaches, strange rashes, digestion problems, hormone imbalances, stiff neck, neck cracking, sensitivity to light/ sound...the list goes on and on as Lyme affects EVERY tissue in the body. I know as I have Lyme AND I unknowingly passed it on to my children!! Yes! Lyme can be passed from mother to unborn child!! So Lyme is everywhere in our country and people are suffering in silence as the medical community is not adequately treating these patients. And those who have a Lyme Literate Doctor (LLMD) are getting GOUGED financially at $700 per hour!! Who can afford that... especially when the people are unable to continue working due to their debilitating body. The whole thing is a gross medical catastrophe :(. There was a documentary recently released called Under Our Skin (avail thru Netflix) that illustrates the big medical debate over Lyme. Doctors have made some HuGE mistakes that are now costing the lives of thousands and thousands of people....and if they were to rectify it now, there will be millions of $ in law suits...it's just a medical disaster...at the expense of people's lives. A Very sad situation.
Patti February 26, 2014 at 12:13 PM
Hear hear to all above comments. I went to a lyme literate doctor who ran thousands of $ of tests on me, some of which turned out to have ? value... ie were only run by one lab, not certified by anyone, etc... in the end, i paid over $1000 for a "can't be wrong" lyme test which came back positive after 9 months. Only to be told (after being charged more $ for his "time") that the test really was not considered any good after all... could be one of 400 of the species many of which are harmless. He would have to treat based on symptoms; but these symptoms could be one of hundreds, maybe thousands of things. He shrugged his shoulders. Parasites everywhere including the doctors who are gouging the sick. Not everywhere, but... beware. Mine was shameless. Charging me to tell me he had squandered my money and my time, and now wanting to poison me without knowing for sure what i had based on symptoms. Be careful!!!

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