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Things That Swim in the Water and Crawl on Land T...
Del Weihert
Hello paddlers, It was suggested that I post this article on our google group site as it pertains to trips and trip safety. It was posted to me from Mad City Paddlers (MCP) Thanks, Del

Things That Swim in the Water and Crawl on Land That We Don’t See (But Need to Know About)

On the Land:

As paddlers we appreciate the beauty of rivers, lakes, streams, forests, meadows and farmland that surround them. When we paddle, camp, put-in and take-out, we are not only interacting with our environment’s natural wonder; we are also in nature’s vector for things that can bite and infect. Although it is rare for us to encounter poisonous snakes, and large predators, the woods and water have plenty to be aware of. Most of us by now are aware of the danger of ticks and Lyme disease and know to check for ticks, use permetherin on clothing and Deet to prevent bites. Most of us know that the Deer tick nymphs, common in the spring and early summer, are only the size of a poppy seed carry lyme and can go unnoticed after they are attached to us.

Unfortunately Lyme is only one of the diseases that a tick or tick nymph can infect us with as they regurgitate their fluid into our bodies. There have been 15 other tick born infections that pathologists have discovered since 1981. More tick born pathogens and more varieties of ticks that carry them such as the Lone Star tick, (now in Wisconsin) continued to be discovered. If Lyme isn’t treated soon after infection, chronic Lyme will ensue. There is is great contention in the medical doctor community about the existence of chronic Lyme disease which can be a prolonged treatment ordeal even with a Lyme literate MD. Prolonged illness and anti-biotic treatment can last years, greatly complicated by any one of the 15 co-infections. Each co-infection may need a different type of treatment. Lyme can be mistaken for other serious debilitating diseases such as ALS, M.S., and Parkinson’s disease. Some doctors feel that a prior tick born disease may be a a causative component for some of these other diseases. Kris Kristofferson, the singer songwriter had been diagnosed and was under treatment for Alzheimer’s dementia until another doctor listened to Kristofferson’s hunch that he had Lyme, and diagnosed him correctly for Lyme disease. His life is now improving: Amy Tan, the author of “Joy Luck Club”, spent summers in Massachusetts and spent over $40,000 on medical tests and treatment in her home state of California before she was diagnosed, treated and improved from chronic Lyme and co-infections. At one point she went from being a prolific writer to not being able to find her way home. Lyme elaborates:

“Coinfections may be common – at least among those with chronic Lyme disease. A recently published LDo survey over 3,000 patients with chronic Lyme disease found that over 50% had coinfections, with 30% reporting two or more coinfections. The most common coinfections were Babesia (32%), Bartonella (28%), Ehrlichia (15%), Mycoplasma (15%), Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (6%), Anaplasma (5%), and Tularemia (1%). A similar study in Canada found similar rates of coinfection in patients with chronic Lyme disease:”

In the Water:

Most paddlers also know about Giardia and that it is unwise to drink water from lakes and streams that hasn’t been treated. A similar amoeba organism called Entamoeba Histolytica, is common in Mexico, and Latin America, the Indian sub-continent and Asia where drinking water quality is lacking. An infection of this amoeba can be acquired from food handling in the U.S. A Giardia infestation in a person’s gut can happen with as little as a Two Tablespoons of swallowed water. There are other bacterial and now identified viral entities common in our waters. Part of Giardia and other amoeba organism’s life cycle is a cyst stage. If swallowed it can take an amoeba cysts weeks to follow through and become an identified organism. The signature GI distress symptoms indicate an acute infection.

However, like Lyme disease, an amoeba infection is difficult to diagnose if it is missed and becomes chronic. Like Lyme disease a chronic amoeba infection’s symptoms might be very different than the acute phase of the disease. The symptoms of the acute phase might not be present at all later on , replaced by a confusing array of other symptoms. To further complicate the scenario most medical doctors have less one day of medical training in the diagnosis and treatment of amoeba infections. The standard test for amoebas is three separate stool tests. Unfortunately, amoebas live in the mucosal lining of the human bowel and not in the stool. It is very likely that an infected person, even though he or she might be filled with amoebas, will show up negative for the amoeba on stool testing. This is called a “false negative”. In both cases of chronic Lyme and chronic Giardia or other amoeba, the cost of treatment probably won’t be covered by one’s insurance and will need to be paid out of pocket, because modern medicine hasn’t caught up with the lesser known chronic conditions.

Kevin Cahill, M.D. wrote a major text on tropical medicine that is used world wide. He has worked in many developing countries, has been a United Nations medical advisor and has treated a number of U.S. presidents. In my own clinical practice, if a patient is chronically fatigued, has seen many doctors and is still miserable, likes to camp or swim or paddle in Wisconsin or other state’s waters or has traveled to the stated areas; I will refer the patient to see Dr. Cahill or ask that they find a doctor to prescribe the right anti-biotic to treat the suspected amoebas. Once the amoeba is gone, I am able to help the person with Oriental herbal medicine and acupuncture and shorten the recovery period which can otherwise be long. Dr. Cahill tests his patients with a mucosal swab from the lower bowel (sigmoid colon) and finds the particular amoeba with microscopic assessment. Generally the organism has been missed with the more common stool tests. He treats his patients with specific antibiotics that destroy amoebas in their adult and cyst stages.

In conclusion as we enjoy our beautiful waters and woods we chance that our recreation can turn into our life’s greatest nightmare. We can contain our medical, health and financial risks if we are careful to avoid land contact with ticks or consuming water in which the microscopic disease causing entities abide, in our streams and lakes.

-Robert Victor, C.A., M.Ac.
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