You probably know that Lyme disease comes from ticks, but if you don’t personally suffer from it, you’d be forgiven for not knowing much more about it. However, there is one aspect of this disease that everyone should be concerned about, and that’s the possibility that it originated as a biological weapon developed by our own military.
Sadly, it’s not as implausible as you might like to believe. In fact, the House of Representatives has ordered an investigation into whether the Department of Defense carried out experiments involving ticks and other insects as biological weapons.
It was part of an amendment introduced by Representative Chris Smith of New Jersey, who said that he was inspired by books and articles indicating that research was carried out at American government facilities in Plum Island, New York, and Fort Detrick, Maryland, to turn ticks into bioweapons.
It calls for the Inspector General of the Department of Defense to look into whether these types of experiments were conducted between 1950 and 1975. Some of the questions posed by Smith include who ordered the program and whether any diseased ticks were released.
Dr. Willy Burgdorfer, who discovered the bacterial pathogen that causes Lyme disease back in 1975, was a bioweapons specialist for the military. There is evidence suggesting that he and others in his lab injected insects like ticks with pathogens that could bring about disease, disability and death.
Should the Inspector General discover these experiments did occur, the bill states that they must prepare a report on the scope of the research for the House and Senate Armed Services committees and explain whether any of the insects involved in the experiments were released intentionally or by accident.
It is also hoped that this exploration could yield some information that could help Lyme Disease sufferers.
Lyme Disease Association President Pat Smith said: “We need to find out: is there anything in this research that was supposedly done that can help us to find information that is germane to patient health and combating the spread of the disease?”
Lyme disease cases are rising in the U.S.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne illness in the U.S., with as many as 437,000 new cases being reported each year.
It is spread through infected ticks, and some of the symptoms include a bulls-eye rash around a tick bite, joint pain, impaired movement, heart palpitations and flu-like symptoms such as chills, neck stiffness, headaches, body aches and fatigue.
When left untreated, it can cause nervous system problems, arthritis and heart problems, the CDC reports. Numbers have been climbing in recent years, with the confirmed and probable cases reported to the CDC in 2017 representing a 17 percent rise over 2016’s numbers.
Unfortunately, for many patients, it ends up being a chronic disease that they have to battle throughout their lifetime. The antibiotics currently given for Lyme disease will sometimes help, but they can also cause problems such as gut dysfunction and deadly superbugs.
Since there aren’t any reliable or safe treatments for Lyme disease, prevention is essential. When you’re hiking in a wooded area, it’s a good idea to wear long sleeves and pants, and be sure to carry out a tick check all over your body when you return. If you do come across any ticks, pull them out slowly and steadily and then flush them down the toilet.
The origins of Lyme disease have always been the subject of speculation, and we are skeptical but hopeful that this investigation will provide some much-needed clarity. Governments around the world regularly carry out these types of explorations, so it would be disappointing but not too surprising to learn that the disease could have been largely avoided.
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