Lyme disease is on the increase. Nearly 24,000 new cases were reported in the USA during 2002, which is the most recent data available, and is the highest annual total yet recorded. Statistics from the UK show that the disease increased five-fold over a 10-year period.
The disease, caused by the bite of the Ixodes tick, can lead to arthritis, severe headache, encephalitis and cognitive disorders.
The new cases were recorded mainly in the New England states, where the problem is centred, and in the north central states.
Researchers believe the increase is due to a range of factors. There has been an increase in the deer population, which carries the tick, and in residential developments in wooded areas. But a significant factor is the increased awareness of the disease, and the ability and readiness of doctors to recognize and acknowledge it.
The first you may know about the disease can be between three and 30 days after being bitten when you start to develop symptoms of muscle aches, fever, and headache. The next stage occurs after one to four months when symptoms include cranial-nerve facial palsy, meningitis and heart problems. Late stage symptoms, which appear from three to four months, include arthritis and encephalitis.
Conventional treatment is to give antibiotics, but success can be patchy, usually because people don't realize the tick has bitten them until it's too late. If it's caught within the first six weeks, doctors are confident they can cure the disease, although their optimism may not be well founded.
Controversially, Dr Joseph J. Burrascano, Jr believes the only way to treat the disease is with long-term antibiotics. A world-renowned expert on the disease, Dr Burrascano has successfully treated 7,000 patients over the past 15 years - and was prosecuted by the New York medical authorities for his troubles for promoting an 'unorthodox' therapy.
If the idea of short- or long-term use of antibiotics doesn't appeal, a small trial using a rare form of cat's claw has produced very exciting results. The particular form of cat's claw from the Peruvian jungle, and known as prima una de gato, was tested against standard antibiotics, cleared all traces of the disease in all but one of those who took the herb. Researchers suggest it should be taken for up to 12 months, and should be combined with a wholefood diet and an extensive detox.
Prevention, however, is the very best strategy. If you're in a wooded area, or where deer and other animals roam, cover your arms and legs, and wear some head covering. On returning home, carefully search your skin for any ticks, which are about the size of a poppyseed. Your dog may also have picked up the tick, so brush his coat carefully afterwards, too.
* For more information about Lyme disease, read the WDDTY special reports found in vol 12, no 3 and vol 14, no 11. To order your copies, click on this link: http://www.wddty.co.uk/shop/products.asp?Group=2