Infectious new dance helps kids check for Lyme-infected ticks

A children’s songwriting duo has created a catchy new dance-jingle that makes tick checks fun and easy, potentially reducing the incidence of dangerous tick-borne diseases in kids.

Tick-borne illnesses like Lyme disease affect children more than any other age group, yet only about 1 in 10 check for ticks after playing outside. To encourage kids to do more and better tick checks, comedic songwriters “Louis and Dan and the Invisible Band” created a “viral” song-and-dance routine to help kids remember to check for creepy-crawly ticks in their favorite hiding places.

Sponsors of this project, PA Lyme Resource Network and Invisible International, have also organized an educational campaign around the dance called the #TickCheckChallenge. (This project was developed for the Invisible International 2020 Hackathon, which was focused on creating education and awareness around tick-borne illness.) To help spread the word about the importance of tick checks, they’re encouraging people to record their own TikTok-style interpretations of the dance, then share them on social media, following the instructions at https://palyme.org/tick-check-challenge/

Lyme disease is the fastest growing vector-borne illness in the United States, with an estimated 476,000 new cases a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. If ticks take a blood meal undetected, they can transmit other dangerous bacteria and viruses to humans and their pets, including the Babesia parasite, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and the Powassan virus. Initial symptoms are often hard to detect, mimicking those of the flu or Covid-19 — fever, chills, headache, and aches. Prevention through tick checks is the best way to stay safe.

PA Lyme Resource Network is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit foundation with a mission to reduce the suffering of Lyme and tick-borne disease patients via education, prevention, patient support, and advocacy. Their signature “Dare 2B Tick Aware Program” has provided 300+ tick education seminars to date, as well as an informative suite of prevention materials made available to the public.

Invisible International is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit foundation dedicated to reducing the suffering associated with invisible illnesses and social marginalization through innovation, education, and change projects, such as the Lovell family Hackathon that funded the Tick Check Challenge. To donate or to learn more about our many programs to reduce the impact of tick-borne illness, visit the website: https://invisible.international

How to post your videos:

Learn how to create your own video here: https://palyme.org/tick-check-challenge/

Post your video to your social media channels, tagging three friends, and put #TickCheckChallenge on every post so that we can share your efforts to raise awareness.  

To listen to more health-education songs by Louis & Dan and the Invisible Band, go to www.louisdaninvisibleband.com.

Image: kohei_hara @iStock, Video: Chris Flicek

Free online medical education courses on cat scratch disease and Bartonella

Invisible International has released six new courses on Bartonella, the family of stealth bacteria best known for causing cat scratch disease and trench fever. Courses cover disease history, transmission, reservoir hosts, risk factors, disease manifestations, and diagnosis.

In the last few years, there has been a growing body of knowledge on the Bartonella family of bacteria, particularly Bartonella henselae, the causative agent of cat scratch disease. In this course series, a leading expert on Bartonellosis in mammals, Edward Breitschwerdt, DVM, provides a fascinating overview of the latest in clinical manifestations and diagnostic methodologies for detecting these evasive, slow-growing pathogens. His message to both physicians and veterinarians — Bartonella-related diseases are more common than previously known and these stealth organisms may be the culprit behind many illnesses of “unknown etiology.”

In humans, Bartonella henselae is typically transmitted by cat bites or scratches, sometimes by flea bites. Three to 10 days after inoculation, the infected may experience a fever and a lesion at the wound site. Swollen lymph nodes may appear one to two weeks later. Many report headaches, lack of appetite, weight loss, vomiting, and, occasionally, a sore throat. While most cases resolve without treatment, five to 20 percent of the infected exhibit severe symptoms of the disease. Complications can involve the eyes, nervous system, brain, heart, liver, spleen, skin, and musculoskeletal system. A major focus of this course series is to provide physicians veterinarians with new evidence to help them explore Bartonella as a differential diagnosis in their most confounding cases.

Breitschwerdt also presents some interesting evidence on possible Bartonella transmission by ants, spiders, mites, needle sticks, and ticks. Tick-to-human transmission is a controversial topic in infectious disease circles, but after reviewing the latest research (mostly from Europe), Breithschwerdt concludes that it is “highly likely.” He also reminds physicians to ask sick patients about their exposure to animals, since Bartonella often runs in families, infecting both pets and their human companions.

Edward Breitschwerdt, DVM, the course’s author, is a professor of medicine and infectious diseases at the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine. He is also an adjunct professor of medicine at Duke University Medical Center and a diplomate in the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM). As a leading expert on bartonellosis, he directs the Intracellular Pathogens Research Laboratory in the Institute for Comparative Medicine and co-directs the Vector Borne Diseases Diagnostic Laboratory at NCSU. These courses are currently in review for CME credit by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

This project is funded by the Montecalvo Platform for Tick-Borne Illness Education, through Invisible International, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit foundation dedicated to reducing the suffering associated with invisible illnesses and social marginalization through innovation, education, and data-driven change projects. You can sign up to receive news and updates at: https://invisible.international/mission

Links to Bartonella courses: History of a hidden pandemic, Vectors and other modes of transmission, Reservoir hosts: Bats, cats, dogs, mice and men, Comparative infectious disease causation, Disease expression and host immunity, and Diagnosis of Bartonella species infections.

Image credit: ehaurylik @iStock

Free online medical education course on early Lyme disease

Three patient case studies guide physicians on how to diagnose and treat early Lyme disease. This online course summarizes the latest research on disease risk, symptoms, and treatment options.

Diagnosing early Lyme disease cases can be notoriously difficult. Initial symptoms mimic those of the flu or Covid-19 — fever, chills, headache, and aches. The recommended antibody testing isn’t reliable in the first month. And many of those infected by a tick never see the tick or the most helpful diagnostic sign — an expanding erythema migrans rash at the bite site.

In the meantime, it’s more important than ever for physicians to keep up with clinically relevant information that will enhance their Lyme disease diagnostic and case management skills. Lyme disease is the fastest vector-borne illness in the United States, with an estimated 476,000 new cases a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Approximately 10 to 20% of those treated with antibiotics go on to experience disabling long-haul symptoms, such as severe fatigue, joint/muscle pain, brain fog, and neurologic symptoms. Prompt diagnosis and treatment of early Lyme disease results in better outcomes.

Case studies in early Lyme disease” is an online continuing medical education course that discusses disease risk in geographic regions, Lyme disease rashes, NIH-funded treatment trials, the basics on how Lyme bacteria evade the immune system, and the pros and cons of various patient treatment options. Participants’ diagnostic skills are tested with three real-life patient case studies. This course has been approved for 1.0 CME credit by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Elizabeth L. Maloney, MD, the course’s author, is a Minnesota family physician focused on tick-borne disease education and policy. She is also the education director of Invisible International; the founder/president of the Partnership for Tick-borne Diseases Education; a former subcommittee member of the HHS Tick-borne Diseases Working group; and a peer reviewer for the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

This project was funded by the Montecalvo Platform for Tick-Borne Illness Education, through Invisible International, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit foundation dedicated to reducing the suffering associated with invisible illnesses and social marginalization through innovation, education, and data-driven change projects. You can sign up to receive news and updates at https://invisible.international/newsletter

Other related courses: Basic principles of diagnostic testing, 7 years of blood-based Lyme disease testing, Serologic testing in Lyme disease.

Image credit: Tricia Shears 2009, Lyme rash on a 5-yr-old

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