A tearful Avril Lavigne breaks down during an interview with Good Morning America as she opened up about her fight with Lyme disease. The 30-year-old singer is just the latest celebrity to be affected by Lyme disease which is now reported in 49 out of 50 states. Lyme disease is now the fastest growing infectious disease with 300,000 new cases every year in the US. Scientists theorize that there are 2 main reasons for the proliferation of this disease – a growing population of mammals as host for ticks and climate change.
In order for a tick to start spreading the disease, the larvae has to first contract the disease from the host it is feeding on. Thereafter, it will grow into a hungry new nymph that can pass on the Lyme disease to other hosts. While deers are the preferred food for these nymphs, they are too big for the young larvae to feed on. White-footed mice on the other hand are small enough to make them a suitable host for a larvae. Due to deforestation, there are lesser predators that feed on these mice which allow for its propagation. More grimly, these white-footed mice infect 75%-95% of larvae that feed on them.
In a CDC report, a “geographic expansion of high-risk areas” is occurring and could be due to climate changes that favor the survival of ticks. Typically, an animal that has been bit by an infected tick will take several weeks for the bacteria to reproduce in the animal bloodstream, enough for it to become infectious. Subsequently, when a tick bites that same animal, it will then become infected with Lyme disease. Therefore, when the larvae feeds the same time as nymphs, they will be less likely to be infected by the disease as it will take time for the bacteria to reproduce an infect the animal. In the American Midwest, the colder fall weather forces larvae into dormancy before the animal they are feasting on become infected. Whereas in the American Northeast, the warmer autumn weather allows the larvae to feed through winter and increase the probability of getting infected.
Although Lyme disease is still chiefly confined in the northeastern part of US, “the risk is expanding, in all directions” said Kiersten Kugeler, lead author of the CDC. Therefore, it pays to be especially attentive to check for tick after an outdoor activity. Symptoms of Lyme disease includes a red skin rash that is neither painful nor itchy, flu-like symptoms and extreme tiredness. Be sure to consult your doctor should you experience any of these symptoms. While Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics, the chance of recovery is higher when it is started early.
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