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Staying Lyme-free in an endemic region

"Almost everybody I know either has Lyme disease, or they know someone who is undergoing Lyme treatment," said my friend Dee, who moved to the Hudson Valley, NY just a few years ago. 

She'd been telling me about her favorite pastime, walking with her dog, Daisy, through the woods near her small house.

"Knock on wood, I haven't gotten it yet. It's kind of shocking how many people have, but honestly, I don't think I've ever even seen a tick out there," she added. I could tell she was amazed at her good luck. "But the fact that I haven't gotten sick doesn't seem to make me more cautious," she went on. "In fact, I feel sort of immune to it." She paused, considering this idea for a moment.

"Are some people just more susceptible than others?" she asked.

While silently giving thanks (and feeling relieved) that my friend remains happy and healthy, I explained what I've learned from Lyme experts regarding our susceptibility.

Ginger Savely, RN, tells us that in her experience observing and treating Lyme patients, it's true that some people tend to attract ticks, just as some of us are mosquito magnets, and some never get bit. Other medical professionals, such as Dr Cowden and the late Dr Joanne Whitaker, who have studied Lyme, its testing and treatment for a lifetime, claim that the Lyme bacteria can be found in body fluids, such as tears, sweat and semen. Pediatrician Dr Charles Ray Jones, who is nothing short of a hero in many of his colleagues and his Lyme patients' estimation, says he has treated very young children who were infected by their mother while in vitro.

"The problem with being Lyme-free while living in a place such as the Hudson Valley," explained Dee, "is that you lose your fear. You don't take the precautions you know you should because it just hasn't happened yet."

Here are some precautions to take, if you plan to venture outdoors in this beautiful spring weather. Be sure to check your dog, too.

To reduce the risk of Lyme disease:

• Wear light-colored clothing and preferably long pants and long sleeves when in places where ticks may be present. This helps in spotting ticks that may be on clothes. Tucking pants into socks is also a very good idea.
• Perform a tick check every day so ticks can be removed before they have a chance to feed and transmit pathogens they might be carrying. Research indicates that a tick has to feed for at least 36 hours before it can transmit pathogens such as the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
• Consider the use of repellents if spending considerable time outdoors.

Source: New York State Health Department

PS: I asked Dr Eva Sapi, Director of Lyme Research at the University of New Haven, Connecticut, whether it was true, in her estimation, that a tick must be attached "for at least 36 hours before it can transmit pathogens," and she assured me there was no evidence to support that assertion.
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