Saturday, June 16, 2018

Tick, tick, tick

A few weeks ago, a student emailed me an update about her health condition.  She now had an official word on it: "what is called chronic, or stage 2 Lyme disease, which means the disease is very aggressive."

Lyme disease.  Here in the urban parts of Oregon?
In the space of two generations, the natural landscape in many American states has been slowly transformed from a place of refuge and peace to one of peril and menace. Blacklegged ticks that transmit Lyme disease and other illnesses inhabit half of US counties, where they infect some 300,000 people yearly in grassy meadows, urban parks, backyards and many other places.
Oh shit!

As we conquer old bugs, new bugs creep into our lives.
The prevailing view of Lyme disease as an epidemic without urgency means that it has long been starved for funding. In 2016, U.S. health agencies spent less than $30 million to fight Lyme disease while giving $184 million to fight the mosquito-borne Zika virus. The hasty allocation was driven by valid concern for Zika’s potential to cause birth defects. But as people developed immunity to the usually harmless infection, the epidemic quickly petered out, with U.S. cases dropping from 224 in 2016 to seven in 2017.
Bites from blacklegged ticks offer no such immunity, and this plague will not soon retreat. Rather, ticks are moving to new and warmer places and delivering more illnesses
Yep, whether it is Lyme or Zika, as always, we panic about "threats" coming from outside our borders, even as we yawn over the much nastier ones that are home-grown.

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