Lyme Disease: The Perfect Storm Is Headed Our Way
by: Leo Galland, M.D.
Blood-sucking ticks coming to a field and forest near you.
That may sound like the latest horror film, but unfortunately it is a reality due to a surge in ticks that spread Lyme disease this spring.
Fortunately, the media interest in Lyme disease appears to be growing with the threat. At the start of the month I was interviewed on Martha Stewart Living Radio about Lyme disease.
The Perfect Storm for Lyme Disease
A perfect storm happens when two conditions converge to amplify each other’s effects. Two conditions are creating what may become the perfect storm for transmission of Lyme disease this spring:
1. An unusually warm winter, which left deer ticks alive, hungry and looking for a meal.
2. A dramatic flip-flop in the acorn cycle: A large crop of acorns in the fall of 2010 and a very small crop in 2011 in the East. This means fewer mice for the ticks to feed upon, as I explain below.
These two conditions mean tons of deer ticks that are hungry and lacking their typical food supply. You could be their next meal.
Ticks Transmit Lyme and Other Diseases
The bacteria that cause Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, are transmitted to humans by the bite of a deer tick (Ixodes dammini).
Deer ticks live for two years and in their lifetimes take only three blood meals: the first as newborn larvae, the second a year later as immature nymphs and the third a season later as adults.
Mice and Other Rodents Carry Ticks Too
If you don’t see any deer and think the coast is clear, think again.
Deer ticks live in vegetation and hitch rides on animals on which they feed, not only deer, but mice and other rodents.
White-footed mice may be the most efficient carriers of deer ticks for human infection. White-footed mice thrive in vacant lots and small wooded parcels near homes because their natural predators cannot survive in those environments.
The mice feed on acorns and store them for winter. The fall of 2010 brought a bumper crop of acorns, which led to a surge in the mouse population and created abundant homes for tick larvae last spring.
In the fall of 2011 the acorn crop was the smallest it’s been in two decades, decimating the mouse population over the winter and leaving a huge number of displaced nymphs that are looking for warm-blooded hosts, like humans. Ixodes nymphs are especially good at transmitting Borrelia to humans.
The Challenge of Preventing Lyme Disease
One of the key challenges with Lyme is getting people to change their behavior. Prevention starts with awareness. THINK LYME. You’re as likely, maybe even more likely, to get bit by a deer tick in your backyard as hiking in a forest.
Steps to Prevent Lyme Disease
- Do daily tick checks. Deer ticks are tiny, about the size of poppy seeds, and easy to miss.
- You may need to spray your clothes and your yard with permethrins or other pesticides, but chemical tick control is never enough.
- Remove debris and clutter on your property to discourage rodent populations. Keep grass and weeds cut short in areas you use for recreation.
- Strong sunlight kills deer ticks by drying them out. Since ticks cannot hop or fly they find you by dropping onto you from vegetation, after sensing your presence. If pesticides have been sprayed on the upper surface of a plant, the tick will simply hide on the under surface.
- If you find a tick, remove it with small-tipped tweezers, grasping it as close to the skin as possible. Try to get it all, slowly but firmly pulling the tick away from the skin. Save the tick in a sealed plastic bag or a container of alcohol. State health departments and private laboratories can test the tick for the presence of bacteria that cause Lyme disease.
- In many areas the majority of ticks are infected with Borrelia. Talk to your doctor about pre-emptive therapy and check the website Treat the Bite (www.treatthebite.com). Once you have removed the tick, wash your hands and disinfect the tweezers by leaving them in alcohol for several hours.
The Challenge of Diagnosing Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is a great masquerader, which makes getting a proper diagnosis of Lyme a real challenge. Lyme can cause symptoms in multiple organs, including skin, heart, nervous system, joints and muscles and gastrointestinal tract. Involvement of the lungs, eyes or urinary tract has also been reported.
For some people, fatigue or brain fog is the only symptom of Lyme disease. Sometimes the most prominent symptom is a change in mood or personality.
Symptoms may begin days or months after a tick bite. Many victims of Lyme disease are unaware of having had a tick bite. The majority of Lyme patients I’ve seen never had the classic “bull’s eye rash” that can be an early sign of the disease.
Doctors usually use blood tests to make a diagnosis of Lyme disease, but several factors limit their value:
- These tests rely on antibodies, proteins made by your immune system to attack Borrelia. Antibodies may not be measurable for a month after the tick bite.
- Early treatment with antibiotics may prevent antibody formation without curing Lyme disease.
- People who are immune-suppressed may not make antibodies.
- The results of antibody testing at different labs can vary greatly.
- Deer ticks may carry pathogenic microbes other than Borrelia. These other infections will not be detected by a test for Lyme disease but may produce distinct illnesses like babesiosis, ehrlichiosis or bartonellosis that overlap symptomatically with Lyme disease.
At the present time, the diagnosis of Lyme disease is a clinical diagnosis, not a laboratory diagnosis. It requires a clinician with Lyme experience.
The Challenge of Treating Lyme Disease
There is a great deal of controversy about optimal treatment for Lyme disease. The Infectious Disease Society of America recommends two to three weeks of antibiotics as the treatment for Lyme disease, but more than two dozen studies have documented persistence of illness among patients with Lyme disease after a 2-3 week course of antibiotics.
Persisting symptoms are often associated with evidence of persisting infection with Lyme disease. The presence of other tick-borne infections usually impairs the treatment response to Lyme disease.
When it comes to Lyme disease, many people feel that their concerns have not been adequately addressed by the conventional medicine approach.
Leo Galland, M.D.
Whens and Whys of Watering
Natural rainfall isn’t enough for two reasons: It doesn’t ensure an adequate amount and it isn’t distributed evenly enough. This is especially true after a recent fertilization. Many factors go into determining the amount of water that different stands of turf require. A lawn is better off with a good watering that will soak in to the proper depth for your specific soil type. Consult with your lawn care professional as you determine how much and how often to water your lawn. Watering too frequently can cause more annual weeds, shallow grass roots and more chance of disease due to constant moisture. Too much water will replace oxygen in the soil, and gradual decline of the turf will ensue.
An irrigation/ watering system set on timers can be the difference between a MEH lawn and a WOW lawn!
FACTORS TO CONSIDER
– More water is required under trees since they take in more moisture from the soil.
SOIL TYPE AND CONDITION
– One inch of water will penetrate 12 inches into sandy soil. The same amount will soak in six to 10 inches in loam and only four inches in a clay-based soil. You’ll need to adjust your water accordingly, based on soil condition. Compacted soil will be more likely to allow water to run off and requires a core aeration to remedy and modify.
– A slope allows water to run off as opposed to allowing it to percolate into the soil. It also means more water is lost to evapotranspiration due to sun exposure if the turf faces south or west.
– How often and how much has it rained? A rain gauge may be helpful.
Properly placed and directed sprinkler heads are a must for proper watering!
– When is your turf getting enough water? Check for wilting of the grass around noon time. If you can walk across the lawn and leave footprints, it needs water. A bluish tint is an alarm that turf is mere hours from dormancy.
Q – What’s the best time of day to water?
A – Best time to water is early morning or late afternoon. These times are desirable because there is generally less intense sunlight and wind at that time of the day. The least desirable time of day is mid-afternoon when water is lost to evapotranspiration. Late in the evening isn’t good either. This allows the grass blades to stay wet, opening up the turf to whole host of fungal pathogens and encourages disease development.
Q – My lawn is drought stressed. What is the least amount of water my turf can withstand?
A – During extended drought periods, you might opt to water as little as possible due to watering restrictions. To keep the grass crowns alive, turf requires a half-inch of water per week. To keep the roots functioning, one-third to one-half inch every two weeks is required. Water normally when possible. And remember, if watering isn’t possible, turfgrass plants will enter summer dormancy to protect themselves. When water becomes available, the turf will respond accordingly.
Q – So under normal conditions, how much water does my turf need?
A – Temperature is key. Cool season grasses such as Kentucky Bluegrass, Fescues and perennial ryes require the right amount every week to remain actively growing when temperatures are between 45 and 85 degrees. If temperatures are above 85, turf may require an extra half-inch per week. Temperatures of 90 degrees and higher signal a need for an extra inch to keep grass actively growing.
Playing on a high school sports team provides the type of experience that people deem “character-building,” the kind that teaches us how to make a commitment, how to work as a team and toward a goal, and how to persevere in the face of defeat. Former high school athlete and Boston College graduate Matthew Noon is doing his best to ensure that Massachusetts’ students have access to these life-changing experiences. Noon is a co-founder of “Cleats by Noon,” a non-profit organization that allows athletes grappling with the high cost of sports equipment to continue to play the game they love.
Matthew, along with his brother Christopher, is a cofounder and principle owner of Noon Turf Care, an Internet-based lawn care company run out of Hudson, Mass. After years of successful business, the Noon brothers decided to give back to their community by creating “Cleats by Noon.” Troubled by the rising costs of sports equipment, the Noon brothers founded their organization as a way to donate cleats, shoes, and other athletic gear to student athletes struggling to pay the price of high school athletics.
While high schools statewide continue to cut athletic funding as a way to balance budgets, many students are struggling to afford the equipment necessary to play the sports they love. Matthew and Chris are hoping their program will give needy students the opportunity to participate in varsity athletics, as the Noon brothers did years ago. They recently made their first donation, providing 35 pairs of cleats to the girls and boys lacrosse teams at their alma mater, Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School. The duo decided to donate to the teams as a whole, rather than singling out players, as to avoid putting needy students in an uncomfortable spotlight.
The brothers have plans to extend their charity services, branching out to serve additional athletics programs across Massachusetts. According to Chris, “This is just the beginning of donations from Cleats by Noon. We plan to continue to donate to local high schools and youth organizations and find a process to get their cleats into the hands of young athletes that truly need help financially so they can focus on what they love, their sports!” The Noon brothers are planning to make another donation in the fall, this time to the Lincoln-Sudbury soccer teams, proving that the Jesuit tradition of men and women for others doesn’t dissolve after graduation.
| Updated: Thursday, March 29, 2012 00:03
Managing Turf Weeds
The problem with weeds is they grow like well, weeds. The best defense is always a good offense. A healthy lawn will win out in the competition against weeds for light, water and nutrient. Two factors are important in determining what method to employ in managing weeds. The first is determining what type of weed you’re looking at. Weeds are classified as either broadleaf, grasses or sedges. The life cycle of each is the second factor to consider. Annuals have a one-year life cycle, biennials have a two-year life cycle and perennials are the gift that keeps on giving year after year after year. Annual weeds usually require a pre-emergent chemical treatment where the herbicide acts on the sprouting weed seed and prevents it from forming roots, thus killing it before it can become established. Perennial broadleaf weeds are generally better managed using a post-emergent herbicide. Once weed grasses have emerged they are much more difficult to control and treatment can sometimes injure surrounding turfgrass.
What is a weed? Well, it depends on you. Some people prefer a lawn that only contains one type of turfgrass. Some want a lawn containing only one variety of grass. Others are happy if everything is just thick and green, even if it is mixed. The region in which you live also determines how a weed is classified. Zoysia grass and Bahia grass are great in the south, but a scourge in New England where cool-season turfgrasses thrive. A good handbook of plants or weed compendium is helpful since there are literally hundreds of types and varieties of weeds.
Weed management practices
- Set your mower height for the highest recommended for your type of grass.
- Water in the correct amounts – usually one inch per week.
- Control pests and diseases before they become unmanageable.
- Use shade tolerant turf or groundcover in shady areas.
- Fertilize correctly. Not too much and not too little.
Join us on Saturday, April 14, 2012 at 10 AM for our FREE quarterly webinar. This quarter we discuss Spring Property Tips and Horticultural Care.
- 1 Hour Education on everything you need to know about preparing your
lawn, trees, shrubs, and outside property for the Spring season.
- Hosted by New England Horticultural and Landscape Panel, some of
which have over 30 years experience.
- Free advice on specific challenges you face as a homeowner.
- Overview of current challenges we all face regarding specific Spring issues.
- At the end of the presentation there will be a Q&A session.
CLICK HERE to register today!