Health hazards – tick-borne diseases, Bisphenol A

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Ticks are increasing in abundance, probably due to the mild winter weather that has prevailed in recent years. Following is an annotated list of tick-borne diseases, some of which could be contracted by Alabama residents.

— Lyme Disease. Transmitted by black-legged deer ticks and possibly by some other tick species. Symptoms are flu-like but can be long-lasting. Several cases are reported in Alabama each year.

— Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF). This potentially fatal disease, which can be transmitted by several tick species, occurs infrequently in Alabama. A Ft. Payne woman recently tested positive for RMST, but recovered following treatment at the UAB hospital. Her physicians said it was the first case they’d seen in years.

— Babesiosis. Also known as Nantucket Fever. This potentially deadly disease is confined mostly to the Northeast and upper Midwest. About 1,000 people have become infected, 12 of whom died. Symptoms resemble malaria, but are more serious. Transmitted by black-legged deer ticks.

— Anaplasmosis. Causes flu-like symptoms. Can be fatal if untreated. Transmitted by black-legged deer ticks.

— American Boutonese Fever. Only recently discovered, this disease is similar to RMST and is still being investigated.

— Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness. An enlarged rash occurring around the bite of an infected Lone Star tick. Not serious but discomforting.

— Tidewater Spotted Fever. A disease similar to RMST but less serious. Can cause extreme pain. Found mostly in lower Atlantic and Gulf coastal areas. Transmitted by Gulf Coast ticks.

— Alpha-gal Allergy. This is the weirdest one of the bunch. In some individuals, the bite of a Lone Star tick can result in severe allergic reactions, including potentially fatal anaphylaxis, from eating meat of hoofed animals, including beef, pork, lamb, venison, and bison. The well known author John Grisham reportedly suffers from alpha-gal allergy and must confine his consumption of meat to fish and fowl.

An article in Sierra says that one infectious disease specialist calls alphal-gal “the cow’s revenge.”

Several years ago I frequently encountered ticks on me and on my dogs.

After we began treating our dogs with a systemic flea and tick killer, which is applied monthly, I seldom find a tick on me and the ticks adhering to my dogs are dead. My dogs patrol my property regularly, and I suspect they pick up a majority of the ticks around the place. The dogs might essentially be acting as tick control specialists, or so my observations lead me to believe.

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On another health-related issue, people should be aware of the possibility that a chemical to which they and their un-born and young children are being exposed may be hazardous.

The chemical is Bisphenol A (BPA) which has been in use since the 1960’s to harden plastic and to line the interiors of metal food and beverage containers.

BPA can leach into the contents of plastic and metal containers and can affect the prostate, brains and development of fetuses and infants, and some authorities say, contribute to development of diabetes, heart disease, and liver problems. (GoodHousekeeping.com) Some believe that autism and ADD and ADHD may result from exposure to BPA. BPA is also known to be a feminizing, estrogenic “gender-bender,” and is believed by some to interfere with the sexual development of embryos, especially males.

The chemical is no longer used in the manufacture of plastic baby bottles and sippy-cups, and Campbell’s Company has discontinued using it to line metal food containers. The American Chemistry Council, which represents plastic manufacturers, contends that BPA poses no risk to human health. Surprise, surprise!

Dr. Theo Colborn and her associates have conducted extensive research on gender-bending chemicals and other persistent organic pollutants, and have written a book, Our Stolen Future. Are We Threatening Our Fertility, Intelligence, and Survival? A Scientific Detective Story. (Dutton, publ. 1996.) It’s well worth your time to read this and take precautionary measures. Consumers of canned beverages may wish to determine if the containers they purchase are lined with BPA (website, Julie’s Health Club, Chicago Tribune).

Bob Mount is a Professor Emeritus with the Dept of Zoology and Entomology, Auburn Univ. He is also chairman of the Opelika Order of Geezers, well-known local think tank and political clearing house. He writes about birds, snakes, turtles, bugs and assorted conservation topics.

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