The thought of twisting a cork and popping open a bottle of wine might occur if one were tiny enough to swim alongside an army of spirochete soldiers through the alleys of the human bloodstream. Unlike most bacteria, the Lyme Disease spirochete possesses the shape of a corkscrew, similar to that of a wine opener, making it capable of drilling into any system of the human body. Capitalizing on its ability to mask itself as other illnesses and to conceal its existence from modern medicine’s conventional detection methods, Lyme Disease is the perfect adversary to the human race, a cloak and dagger crafter of chaos. It’s waiting for you, your friends and your family…only a few feet from your doorstep.

What Is Lyme Disease?

The Lyme epidemic was born of an infection caused by the bacterium Borrelia Burgdorferi. Cunning, bold, intelligent and utterly merciless, Borrelia Burgdorferi is an insidious agent of the eubacterial phylum Spirochaetes identified by its notorious wavelike form (the corkscrew) and propelling flagella. The bacteria is typically transmitted to humans through a tick bite, evidence of which may later manifest in the form of a skin rash. However, according to renowned Lyme Disease specialist Dr. Joseph Jemsek, the contraction of Lyme is often not characterized by the classic erythema migrans “bulls-eye” rash, leaving victims clueless as to the existence of any bite in the first place.

Once contracted, Lyme attacks several human organs including the intestines, the bladder and the musculo-skeletal system. Common symptoms include but are not limited to fatigue, muscle pain, spasms, sensory aversion, depression and anxiety. Lyme Disease also enjoys penetrating brain tissue, which leaves patients struggling with impaired neurological functions and cognitive complications such as memory loss or “brain fog,” resulting in patients being confused by simple tasks such as how to get from one familiar place to another.

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Not only is Lyme an effective aggressor, it’s an unprecedented master survivalist. According to Dr. Jemsek, the Lyme bacteria is capable of existing in extremely poor conditions. For example, if the Lyme bacteria lacks a food supply, it reacts by morphing into a cyst in order to protect itself until more favorable conditions arise. The pathogen also thrives in its ability to evade the immune system’s methods of detection, which virtually nullifies the effectiveness of the body’s search and destroy operations.

Cloak and Dagger Crafter of Chaos

Storming the fort, tempers hot, guns blazing and heads rolling is a battle tactic that risks prematurely revealing the character of one’s cards and ultimately amounts to an ineffective manner of advancing behind enemy lines. In this case, we are the enemy. And despite how intelligent we are as warriors, Lyme Disease is the more intelligent warrior which, rather than staging blitzkrieg, instead chooses to slip through the back door of our immune system while our personal biological bouncer is dragging a smoke and looking the other way.

According to the Centers for Disease Control website, 300,000 cases of Lyme Disease are reported to the CDC by state health departments and the District of Columbia each year. However, more recently the CDC indicated that around 300,000 U.S. citizens are diagnosed with Lyme Disease each year (a statistic still considered conservative by Lyme patients), firmly earning it the title as the number one vector-borne illness in the United States. Famed Lyme Disease specialist Dr. Richard Horowitz credits the disease as being “the great imitator,” often masking itself as chronic illnesses including fibromyalgia, lupus, meningitis, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and chronic fatigue syndrome, all common misdiagnoses which explain why significant improvements with disease-specific treatment elude chronically ill patients. Lyme’s ability to impersonate other illnesses is compounded by the helping hand it receives from various co-infections including (but not limited to) anaplasmosis, babesiosis, bartonellosis and erlichiosis. Transmission of such co-infections via tick bite is not uncommon. In July of 2010, the National Capital Lyme Disease Association (NATCAP) conducted an online survey, which concluded that 46% of 1433 respondents had been diagnosed with multiple tick-borne infections.

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Adding an even more sinister layer to Lyme’s talent for deception, lab testing for the disease is extremely unreliable, which further enables the pathogen to wreak havoc undetected. However, awareness of incompetent Lyme testing recently began plowing its way into the sight of those with the power to make a change. In March of 2013, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell signed into law the Lyme Disease Testing Information Disclosure Act. The act states that healthcare providers must inform patients being tested that a negative test result does not mean that the patient doesn’t have Lyme Disease. It’s a start.

Is there reliable testing?

Due to the unreliability of most lab testing, the CDC has advised that the optimal Lyme Disease test is to have a physician conduct a clinical diagnosis based on a patient’s symptoms. If you decide to seek a physician for Lyme Disease testing, it’s important to locate an infectious diseases doctor, optimally an LLMD (Lyme Literate Medical Doctor) such as Dr. Horowitz or Dr. Jemsek. When determining a positive or negative test for Lyme Disease, Dr. Jemsek specifically focuses on a patient’s symptoms, their resistance to prior treatments and the response to antibiotic therapy.

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Various approaches to Lyme testing do exist. According to the National Capital Lyme Disease Association, there are labs employing effective Lyme testing methods including the Igenex Lab in Palo Alto, California and the Imugen Lab in Norwood, Massachusetts. A full list of such labs is on the website. Not only do these labs test patients for Lyme, they’re able to test ticks for Lyme and other vector-borne diseases. The NATCAP website presents instructions for proper tick removal while the testing labs provide instructions for packaging the tick and sending it to the lab.

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Aside from seeing an established LLMD, the best thing a Lyme patient can do is to immerse themselves into the Lyme Disease community. The National Capital Lyme Disease Association, led by Executive Director and Lyme Disease activist Monte Skall, is an excellent resource that provides information about Lyme disease prevention, its controversial place in modern medicine and relevant ongoing research. Facebook is also an invaluable means of connecting to other Lyme patients, learning from their experiences and sharing with them your own experiences. After all, when we’re confronted by a seemingly insurmountable obstacle, we can get by with a little help from our friends.