Friday, May 2, 2014

The Problem

I am on various Lyme groups/ boards online, some I use more often than others, some I glance over every now and then; some offer lots of information, post links to new research or media articles, others are more focused on providing support to others.  All have their benefits and sometimes I wonder how I would ever possibly have coped if this had all happened to me before the internet existed.  

My research from the CFS 'diagnosis' to the microbiology theories which eventually guided me to my Lyme diagnosis was all done online.  I had access to a wealth of information at my fingertips.  A community of support without even leaving my bed (because I couldn't).  Now, the amount of information available online regarding Lyme & its associated diseases seems to increase exponentially every year.  And I'd like to say every single bit of information shared is valuable - from scientific studies published in journals, to personal stories shared on blogs  - they all add to a piece of the puzzle, share some insight into the 'Lyme experience'.

But I honestly have to draw the line and say this article 'Who What, Why? How dangerous are tick bites in the UK?, published on the BBC this week might be the WORST article I have read on anything Lyme-related that (apparently) aims to promote awareness.

The ONLY good thing I can say is it is talking about ticks and Lyme - they say no PR is bad PR, so I suppose, at the very least, it is being talked about.

But..... The Problem is in the content. (Actually the grammar nerd inside me has other issues with the article too.)  The content, the structure, the lack of research, the fact it fails to answer the question posed as its headline - and reads like it has been written by a school pupil on work experience - all combine to create a terrible piece of generic blurb which is helpful to nobody.

Oh, but it's on the BBC.  Back to The Problem - people will read this.  It's a quick, easy article - look everyone, the BBC is doing its bit to raise awareness....... except it doesn't.

Going through the article, here are a few BIG issues:

"there's no definitive data on how many ticks are in the country. Some areas have none..."

That's a bit like trying to count poppy seeds.  Seriously.  I doubt it is possible to EVER even guesstimate how many ticks there are anywhere.  And as for some areas not having any - since there's no way of counting them, ticks move, ticks attach themselves to animals and people (both of which have the ability to move further), this statement is completely and totally unverifiable. 

"Lyme disease is treatable with antibiotics if it's diagnosed early. But neurological problems and joint pain can develop months or years later if it's left untreated. In the worst cases, it can be fatal."

What should possibly be the most important part of the article is reduced to 34 words.  Is this the answer to the article? The word 'symptoms' is mentioned several times, and 'flu-type' symptoms and 'fatigue' mentioned in passing, but apart from those very general references, the above paragraph is ALL it says about symptoms (apart from my next point).  So, you might get bitten by a tick, if you have (undivulged) 'symptoms' and don't get treatment quickly you could die.  Wow.  That's just super-helpful and informative.


The most common symptom is a pink or red circular "bull's-eye" rash that develops around the area of the bite, but it doesn't appear in everyone. 

MYTH. This is NOT the most common symptom.  It's pretty much the only symptom that definitively confirms Lyme disease - and even still is not common knowledge among many GPs in this country - but studies and surveys quote statistics varying from 4% to 70% of people remembering/ developing a bullseye rash.  I could put a hundred references/ links here, so a quick Google search (or Google Scholar if you prefer to stick to the academic side) will produce hundreds - probably thousands - of different articles which cite different statistics on this one.

I think however, this paragraph has to be my favourite bit in the article. 

"For those worried about their gardens, keeping lawns short, raking up leaf litter and creating a buffer zone between habitats ticks tend to like and lawn-paving, wood chips and gravel can help."

As the grammar nerd inside me explodes, I'll just focus on the meaning of this sentence (or at least, what I think is the meaning of the sentence).

1. Ticks have habitats they like which appear a mystery to both the author and the reader

2. Short grass must deter poppy-sized ticks. Ever seen an insect crawling on a blade of grass?  A ladybird? A bee? A beetle? I have - doesn't seem to deter them, and they must be at least ten(?)/ a hundred(?) times larger than a tick.

3  "Raking up leaf litter".........................?................................. Even the sarcasm escapes me.

4.. Lawn paving, wood chips and gravel are magic.  They provide mystical deterrent properties that prevent bugs from travelling across them.  If only we knew.....

Just in case my sarcasm wasn't thick enough (come on now with this sarcasm font, I've seen enough people requesting one, can't we assign one, PLEASE?! I vote for comic sans, personally).....

1. Ticks attach to a host so they can feed on them.  A deer, bird, dog, rabbit, mouse, human - they don't really care.  They are blood-sucking arachnids (which it actually says in the article).  I don't think they have a 'habitat' they like to call home.

2. Short grass - yes, it is known that it is easier for a tick to attach itself to a host when it crawls up longer grass.  This is not really made clear.  It also usually refers to long wild grass encountered when hiking; not a lawn that needs to be an inch or so shorter.

3. "Raking up leaf litter".............. I have no words here.... except.... what??  There's not even an explanation!

4. See point 1. I haven't personally encountered any paving, woodchips or gravel that I have been unable to walk across, or that I have witnessed any animal being unable to walk across.  Attached tick - transported elsewhere.  It's really not rocket science.


"The most important thing is for those that think they might have symptoms of Lyme disease to go to the GP as prompt treatment will prevent complications. Symptoms usually take between three days to six weeks to appear after a tick bite."

Oh, if only they knew.  GP.  Prompt treatment.  Symptoms of Lyme disease.  I would like to say we are all laughing at the sheer naivety of using all those words in one sentence, but we're really not.  

We're not laughing because we are crying.

For accurate information on Lyme Disease see:

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