It has taken me some time to pull together the latest newsletter after these two events. Both were wonderful and I met the nicest people.
The first event, Illuminate Frederick, gave me a light bulb moment which I will write about a bit further in this post. The Festival of Legends was a rainy affair, but the people were warm and receptive of The Lyme Quilt. People were very happy to get information on prevention and care for Lyme Disease. It was a very heartwarming and moving affair and I am very blessed to have been there.
So the Light bulb moment came in a review of how the presentation turned out. I discovered this question.
Can Lyme be confused with other bacteria and parasites?
I found out from a patron that there may be some confusion about Lyme and its co-infections.
When a tick bites, the saliva that enters the blood stream can carry an array of bacteria and parasites. One of those is Lyme otherwise known as Borrelia Burgdorferi. Among those other infections that can piggy back on the Lyme spirochete is Bartonella, Babesia or Babesiosis, Erlichiosis , Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and various other infections, bacteria, and parasites.
Perhaps we should take a look at the definitions of these co-infections and discuss the percentage of how many folks can get them and what happens in treatment when you have Lyme and these co-infections.
Babesia: Babesiosis is an infection caused by a malaria-like parasite, also called a “piroplasm,” or protozoan that infects red blood cells. Babesia microti is believed to be the most common piroplasm infecting humans, but scientists have identified over twenty piroplasms carried by ticks. Symptoms often start with a high fever and chills. As the infection progresses, patients may develop fatigue, headache, drenching sweats, muscle aches, nausea, and vomiting. Babesiosis is often so mild it is not noticed but can be life-threatening to people with no spleen, the elderly, and people with weak immune systems. Complications include very low blood pressure, liver problems, severe hemolytic anemia (a breakdown of red blood cells), and kidney failure.
Bartonella: Bartonella henselae causes an important emerging infection first reported in 1990 and described as a new species in 1992. It is sometimes carried by cats and causes cat-scratch disease, endocarditis, and several other serious diseases in humans. Most women get tested for this when they find they are pregnant and know it by “cat scratch fever.”
Bartonella bacteria are known to be carried by fleas, body lice and ticks. Scientists suspect that ticks are a source of infection in some human cases of bartonellosis. People with tick bites and no known exposure to cats have acquired the disease. More research needs to be done to establish the role of ticks in spreading the disease.
Scientists have identified several species of Bartonella. One is carried by sand flies in the Andes Mountains in Peru, and Ecuador. Another is found worldwide in human body lice. Bartonella bacteria also have been found in the European sheep tick. Five different Bartonella species have been detected in 19.2% of I. pacificus ticks collected in California. Symptoms of Bartonella are often mild, but in serious cases it can affect the whole body. Early signs are fever, fatigue, headache, poor appetite, and an unusual, streaked rash. Swollen glands are typical, especially around the head, neck and arms. Other symptoms can be gastritis, lower abdominal pain, sore soles, and tender subcutaneous nodules along the extremities. Lymph nodes may be enlarged and the throat can be sore.
Erlichia or Erlichiosis: There are two kinds of Erlichiosis, both of which are caused by tick-borne rickettsial parasites called Ehrlichia that infect different kinds of white blood cells. In HME (human monocytic ehrlichiosis), they infect monocytes. In HGE (human granulocytic ehrlichiosis), they infect granulocytes. HGE was renamed anaplasmosis in 2003. Ticks carry many Ehrlichia-like parasites that have not yet been identified. It is likely that the lone star tick transmits HME and that the deer tick transmits HGE.
Ehrlichiosis (HME) was originally thought to be only an animal disease. It was described in humans in 1987 and is now found in 30 states, predominately in the southeast, south-central, and Mid-Atlantic States, Europe, and Africa. Anaplasmosis (HGE) in humans was first identified in 1990 in a Wisconsin man. Before that it was known to infect horses, sheep, cattle, dogs, and cats. It occurs in the upper Midwest, northeast, the Mid-Atlantic States, northern California, and many parts of Europe. Studies suggest that in endemic areas as much as 15% to 36% of the population has been infected, though often it is not recognized. Symptoms of ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis are the same. Each is often characterized by sudden high fever, fatigue, muscle aches, and headache. The disease can be mild or life-threatening. Severely ill patients can have low white blood cell count, low platelet count, anemia, elevated liver enzymes, kidney failure and respiratory insufficiency. Older people or people with immune suppression are more likely to require hospitalization. Deaths have occurred.
Other co infections that exist are: Colorado tick fever virus; Mycoplasmas; Powassan encephalitis virus; Q Fever; Rocky Mountain spotted fever (Rickettsia); tick borne relapsing fever Borrelia; Tularemia (bacteria). To find information on those, go to http://www.lymedisease.org/lyme101/coinfections/other_tick_diseases.html.
So, can the symptoms from these be confused with Lyme? Definitely. Can you be tested to find out if you have them? Yes you can, and I strongly suggest you do get tested. Each co-infection has its own type of treatment whether you use Western medicine or other alternative types of treatment.
It is important to “know your bug 101” in order to get better. I haven’t found any up-to-date percentages on how many folks have just Lyme versus how many people have the co-infections, but I will continue to search for the information. Hopefully, with this information and the help of whomever your practitioner is, you will live a healthier life.