FLORIDA BABESIA, BARTONELLA AND LYME DISEASE
Years ago I was told a smart physician said that these infections were not in Florida because we have "no deer." We have a million deer, and in the suburban home I almost bought in Tampa I noted a herd of deer tracks all over the dirt of the lawn.
This was one reason we decided to stay in Naples.
The other issue is that merely lowering deer numbers 10-20%, perhaps only increases the use of other mammals and reptiles as carriers. Florida has a massive number of small mammal carriers available for a infectious ticks to come near human areas.
Here are a few abstracts as a heads up on the obvious presence of Babesia, Lyme and Atypical Bartonella in Florida. "Atypical" means it lasts longer than a cold. I have questions about the wisdom of this exploding Bartonella infection species numbers and if we should use old thinking on it, as if it is gone and of no effect. As an emerging stealth infection we know so little about it that we need to be careful with pronouncements.
Babesia Species [Piroplasms] in Cougars from Florida
ABSTRACT: Piroplasms... [were] previously were detected in 36% of cougars in Florida. We utilized ... amplified DNA from all piroplasms to screen blood samples collected from 41 cougars from Florida. Thirty-nine of the 41 cougars (95%) were positive for piroplasms.... Samples from 32 cougars were positive for a Babesia species. [The Babesia species found were closest to] Babesia divergens, and Babesia odocoilei...
Journal of Wildlife Diseases, 42(2), 2006, pp. 366-374
Michael J. Yabsley, Staci M. Murphy and Mark W. Cunningham
Florida Department of Health
We have found patients with both Babesia microti and duncani in Florida tick bites. Patient symptoms exploded after clear and certain deer tick bites. We cannot be sure other species are not present, because we are decades away from mastery of all the emerging Babesia species. But at this time it is not reportable in Florida. I am not saying it should be but states see less when reporting is not required.
Babesiosis is not currently a reportable disease in Florida.
Greyhounds as Babesia Infected Animals
An ... antibody test was used to serologically survey Greyhounds from 10 kennels that are part of the racing Greyhound industry in Florida. Age of dogs ranged from 11 months to 11 years.... Of 393 Greyhounds tested, 181 (46%) were seropositive for babesiosis.... Seroprevalence of babesiosis in Greyhounds in Florida was comparable to that reported in a limited survey of other southeastern states...
J Am Vet Med Assoc. 1992 Jan 1;200(1):47-50.
Taboada J, Harvey JW, Levy MG, Breitschwerdt EB.
Lyme Disease in Florida
There are a number of cases of Lyme disease in Florida each year which cannot be attributed to out-of-state travel.
The bacterium has been found in rodents in different parts of the state....
FLORIDA TODAY—Interview with Florida Hunter
CANAVERAL GROVES -- Blair Huggins, dressed in only a tee shirt and a pair of silk swim shorts, glanced out the window of his Canaveral Groves home with a sullen look.
"I love my turkey hunting. I sure miss my turkey hunting," he said, shaking his head.
It was last Thursday, two days before the opening of central Florida's bow hunting season, and Huggins knew all too well that he won't be joining his friends in the woods this season. He hasn't been able to go hunting for almost two years, and for Huggins hunting is a way of life.
Peripheral neuropathy, a disorder of the peripheral nerves, causes severe burning sensations throughout Huggins' body. Anything other than lightweight clothing causes pain comparable to horrible sunburn. Except for trips to doctors and maybe the grocery store, Huggins doesn't leave his home.
The 41-year-old Huggins is a victim of Lyme disease, a bacterial infection that is transmitted primarily through the bite of ticks, usually the black-legged tick, also known as the deer tick. Lyme disease is one of about a dozen conditions that can cause the neuropathy.
Because of their exposure to woodlands, hunters are especially vulnerable to ticks, which pick up the disease from mice, deer and even some birds. The bacterial infection then is transmitted to humans by the bite of a bacteria-carrying tick.
Lyme disease was first described in the United States in Old Lyme, Conn. in 1975. Today it has been reported in most parts of the country, with at least 382 documented cases in Florida between 1990 and 1999. But many more cases are misdiagnosed, or unreported.
Huggins never will forget the morning in February 2000 when he discovered hundreds of pinhead-size ticks covering his body after returning from a spring turkey scouting trip at the Seminole Ranch Wildlife Management Area west of Titusville.
"I picked them off with tweezers, and didn't think much about it because I'd gotten into ticks before," Huggins said. "It's just part of hunting in Florida."
Within a couple days, a rash covered much of Huggins' body, and two weeks later he had a sore throat, headaches, fever, and aching muscles.
"I just assumed the ticks have come off some poison ivy or poison oak, and that produced the rash," he said, "and then I figured I'd gotten the flu."
Again, Huggins never gave any thought that a poison ivy-type rash is one of the telltale signs of Lyme disease, followed by flu-like symptoms. He never developed the "bull's-eye" rash around a bite area, which develops in many victims.
Years before, Huggins had leaned not to worry about the small problems in life. After all, he had survived a car crash in the summer of 1980, and a stroke during neurosurgery to remove a benign brain tumor in September 1989.
Despite a partial paralysis of his right side from the stroke, and arthritis in his left arm from the car wreck, Huggins still managed to get into the woods. He hunted turkey for the most part, but also deer. During archery season he had a special permit to use a crossbow because he didn't have the strength to pull a compound bow. He also hunted with a muzzleloader, and during the general season with a rifle or shotgun.
Huggins was raised a hunter, in a family vested in hunting. His grandfather, the late Harvey Huggins of Melbourne who died in 1987 at the age of 84, was one of the state's best turkey hunters. His father, Bud Huggins of Deer Park, taught Blair to hunt turkey and deer as a boy. And Blair Huggins' wife, Annette, is an avid hunter. When hunting season rolls around, everyone in the Huggins family goes hunting.
For the next two years, Huggins' arthritis grew worse in his arm and also a foot, probably a result of the Lyme disease bacteria that he still didn't realize was in his body. Lyme disease is called "the Great Imposter" because it can have such a broad range of symptoms, which can be misdiagnosed, or else victims with less serious reactions simply don't seek treatment.
Huggins' arthritis got so bad that a doctor decided to treat him with steroids. But the steroids affected his immune system, allowing the peripheral neuropathy to develop. Huggins said he was feeling the effects within a month after starting the steroids.
"For many, neuropathy is a numbness or a tingling, but mine was more severe." Huggins said. "In a matter of weeks it spread to my legs and all over my body. My whole body felt like intense sunburn. Anything that touched me burned. I was constantly getting up, I couldn't sit, I couldn't lay down."
The 5-foot-9 Huggins lost 40 pounds, dropping to 122 pounds. But he still didn't relate the neuropathy to the ticks, the rash, and the flu like symptoms two years before.
"I was ignorant. I didn't think Lyme disease was in Florida," he said. Five weeks later, a neurologist prescribed an anti-depressant he said would help the nerve pain, and the doctor told Huggins he was suffering from a tick-borne virus that should get better.
But, Huggins had his doubts, and he started his own research of Lyme disease on the Internet.
"On Friday I had the doctor's appointment, and by Sunday I knew I had Lyme disease," he said emphatically. "All the symptoms I'd had were there. But most doctors don't believe there's Lyme disease in Florida."
A year ago this month, Huggins got the results of four special tests, and all came back positive.
"Mine were a lot positive," Huggins said, able to smile.
The tests also revealed that Huggins had a second tick disease known as babesiosis.
"Other tick diseases go hand-in-hand with Lyme," he said.
In addition to the burning sensation, Huggins also suffers from chest pains several times a week, and he has a loud ringing in his ears.
"It feels like a heart attack, and it'll last from 15 minutes to two hours. The ringing sounds like loud crickets, and loud noises bother me."
Presently, a Tampa doctor with a specialty in Lyme disease is treating Huggins, and there's been some progress.
"I'll have a few days when I feel better, but then it comes back hard again. But, we're trying," Huggins said.
Through it all, Huggins hasn't given up hope of returning to his beloved hunting sports, and he prides in the fact that he is able to teach hunting methods and techniques to some of the younger members of his family.
One of Huggins' proudest moments came on the opening morning of the spring gobbler season in March 2001 when he guided his 14-year-old nephew, Chad Stephens of West Melbourne, to an 181/2-pound gobbler. And, Stephens was on crutches at the time, following a basketball injury.
"I just keep hoping that with each new season I can go," Huggins said. "Last spring came and went, and I know I won't hunt this fall. Now I hope I can hunt next spring for gobblers.
"It's one of the things that just keeps me going."
A Regular Orlando Mom's Warning
She is not an Outdoors Person!
Sadly, Julie contracted Lyme disease seven years ago, though doctors weren't sure what was wrong with her at the time. She was first diagnosed with depression, then experienced fatigue and mysterious pain. Her symptoms came and went, but she had tendinitis, bursitis in her hip and bouts of insomnia. Finally, a doctor screened her for Lyme disease — and she found out what was wrong with her.
Last month, her 10-year-old daughter was diagnosed with Lyme disease — after she complained about leg pains and then fainted at church. When Julie asked the pediatrician to test Gracie for Lyme disease, she was frightened to hear the results: But he confirmed her gut instinct. Her daughter has it too... Julie isn't a camper; she's not an outdoorswoman. She lives in the Moss Park area of Orlando — and she wants other Floridians to know they're at risk for Lyme too. Her message? Ask a doctor to test you if you are having strange symptoms or if you know you've been bitten by a tick.
Bartonella in Florida Panthers
I am surrounded by areas that cannot be developed because of panthers. They are not in the zoo. They are a stone's throw away in parts of my neighborhood.
Serum samples from 28 free-ranging Florida panthers.... living in south Florida (USA) between 1997 to 1998 were tested for antibodies to Bartonella henselae. Twenty percent (7/35) of the samples were reactive to B. henselae antisera with a subspecies prevalence of 18% (5/ 28) for Florida panthers...
J Wildl Dis. 2000 Jan;36(1):157-60.
Rotstein DS, Taylor SK, Bradley J, Brieitschwerdt EB.