Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Government Shutdown: Furlough day 4 (amazing plane ride)

Wow.  I posted in my lyme blog from Seattle, hoping to catch a flight To Portland, en route to San Francisco for the Lyme rally protesting IDSA's protocols.

I made that flight.  On the flight, Across the aisle from me was an amazing woman with flowers on her hat.  She reminded me of a heroine from a novel. 

Mid way through the flight, i returned From the bathroom, and as i took my seat, she said she had two things to show me.

I think first she pointed out a mountain fairly near us, against a pinkening sky.  Then she said to look down.

We were directly over Mt. St. Helen's.  It took a minute to sink in that it was UNDER us, and how close it looked.  We were totality swept away from there.  The angle changed and we could see more detail. I remember a red rock on a cliff side that was shiny in the setting sun.  Closer to us, I started to see crevasses in the snow. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Government Shutdown: Furlough Day 1

For Montanans near me, the closure of Glacier National Park is a really big deal.  Even their Facebook page is on hold until the end of the furlough.  Montanans and tourists in national parks had up to 48 hours to vacate, but only if they were lodging inside the park, according to one social media account from a photographer on their way out of Yellowstone.

Federal agency employees drove up Badrock Canyon this morning, required to report to work to be given furlough instruction, as for other federal employees across the nation.

It was obviously not a complete suprise, but we were recently told we'd be working through the end of the week, so it was still suprising.  All the versions of furlough I imagined included, at the very least, the field trip with 3rd and 4th graders that was slated to happen this week.  This was the first piece that was disproportionately difficult to get my head around.

The second piece was that we were given four hours to follow the instructions given in packets of documents we had to sort through.  There weren't really too many items of importance, but the number of pages and documents involved was overwhelming.  Submitting time took more than the allotted four hours, because 800,000 people were trying to submit their time at the same time.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Rocky Mountain Wood Ticks and Lyme, or something like it

The Rocky Mountain Wood tick is present in Montana.  I read in March that that the RM wood tick is one of the vectors of lyme disease. If this is true or could be true, it is even stronger support that the CDC should drop the diagnostic criteria that patients must have traveled to endemic states so we can start getting real statistics for lyme contracted in Montana. 

This may not sound different than earlier posts, but I've seen since then that the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks website had been updated and I had never seen this link (http://lymememorial.org/State_Stats/State_Statistics_Montana.htm).  

I'm pretty certain when I've looked in the past, it said that tick species that carry lyme (usually only black legged ticks are named, but that seems to be changing) are not present in Montana.  It now shows pictures of Rocky Mountain wood ticks.  I first read it to say that they are one of the vectors for lyme disease, but it doesn't say that directly (the other link above does).  Still, kudos to FWP (either for updating the page or for having a better page to start with than I thought they did).  They clearly state at the top of the page that ticks are responsible for a list of diseases in people in Montana; the list includes lyme disease. 

That's still extremely helpful information, either way.  The FWP page doesn't state directly that RM wood ticks carry lyme, but they refer to black legged ticks as the primary lyme vector (rather than the only one) and appropriately do not seem to be ruling out the presence of lyme or the presence of black legged ticks (not yet known to occur here---it seems worth further investigating the range of the western black legged tick, which is only approximately known).

Most of the sites I've found so far don't list wood ticks as lyme disease vectors, but they are listed as vectors for multiple co-infections and other diseases.  Wood ticks are the identified vector for the 'lyme like' disease that has been found in Montana that I've read articles about in the past (written by and/or about cases noted by state epedimiologist Dr. Damrow (I think he has left the sate)).

We have a few species of wood ticks (Ixodes spp.) and dog ticks (Ixodes and Rhipicephalus spp.) and cooley and relapsing fever ticks (Argasidae spp.) which are all vectors for diseases we can catch. Deer ticks (Ixodes spp.) are black legged ticks that undisputedly carry lyme disease.  

Montana doctors insist we do not have any black legged species, but we aren't really looking hard enough to support their absence.  We have wood ticks (soft bodied) which are so far mostly not thought to transmit lyme, but vets are finding and treating lyme in dogs after wood tick bites and some scientists see them as a possible lyme vector.  There is agreement that Rocky Mtn Wood ticks (present here) carry a 'lyme like' disease and other tick born illnesses.  Migratory birds and mammals, lack of large enough scale survey efforts, climate change, and proximity to mapped Pacific tick ranges make it hard to accept that we really know what species we do or don't have here.  I'm not convinced that no ticks in Montana carry lyme disease.

I'm convinced that plenty of people in Montana have lyme; I'm not convinced they all got it somewhere else.

I'm not convinced that Rocky mtn wood ticks carry lyme, but I'm not fully convinced they don't.

But a person can only search for so long in one night, and this person has lyme disease and is going to bed.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

My 13 year old beat some of my SAT scores in Montana's SAT Challenge

Check out this article!  Montana junior high students were selected to take the SAT as part of the SAT Challenge.  They took the regular SAT, with regular juniors and seniors.  I felt a little bad for the older students, as I think I'd be a little bit psyched out taking the test with kids....Katie looks even younger than junior high!

The top scorers were recognized at a reception in Missoula and our four award winners were in the Hungry Horse News yesterday.


Eighth-graders beat high schoolers

From left, Annabel Conger, Chloe Foster, Katie Daenzer and Haylie Peacock recently took the SAT and did better than most high school seniors — but they're eighth graders.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Montana Bats ~ Brief quote/intro to Whitenose syndrome (Geomyces destructans)


Called “the most precipitous wildlife decline in the past century in North America,” White-nose Syndrome has killed more than 5.7 million bats since its discovery in 2006. Seven bat species in 22 U.S. states and 5 Canadian provinces have now been documented with WNS.

The cold-loving white Geomyces destructans fungus (pictured below) that causes White-nose Syndrome is typically found on the faces and wings of infected bats. The fungus causes bats to awaken more often during hibernation and use up the stored fat reserves that are needed to get them through the winter.

Photo: The Effects of Geomyces Destructans Infection on Bat Wings

Back-lit photographs of wings of White-nose Syndrome (WNS)-positive little brown bats, one with subtle circular and irregular pale areas (arrows) indicating areas of fungal infection (A) and another bat (B) with areas of relatively normal tone and elasticity (black arrow), compared to a WNS affected area that looks like crumpled tissue paper with loss of elasticity, surface sheen and areas of irregular pigmentation (white arrow). (C) Microscopic section of wing membrane from a little brown bat showing extensive infection with the fungus (magenta structures), G. destructans.

Credit: U.S. Geological Survey
Department of the Interior/USGS
U.S. Geological Survey/photo by Carol Uphoff Meteyer

Visit Bat Conservation International for more information (and other resources to follow).

Thursday, March 21, 2013

PLEASE HELP Montanans with lyme disease: Senate Bill 296

MONTANANS especially, please SHARE these links and please contact your representative. 

Montana Senate Bill 296 proposes to protect doctors who treat lyme with long term antibiotics.  Protocols currently call for 28 days of antibiotics early into onset.  But 28 days is not always enough even in the acute stage.  Chronic lyme is very difficult to get diagnosed in this state, as I've posted about before, so the odds of getting diagnosed and treated in the acute phase are pretty slim.  Once diagnosed, longer term cases of lyme cannot be treated as easily as acute cases.

In other parts of the country, even where lyme is known to occur and more commonly diagnosed and treated, doctors have lost their licenses and suffered serious financial consequences for treating patients with lyme.  The risk to doctors and the full complexities of the multiple debates surrounding lyme treatment and diagnosis are too much to dive into here, but a VERY good introduction to these issues is the movie Under Our Skin (it can be rented and is available on netflix and youtube in clips).  
My hope is that reducing the risk associated with treating patients will also reduce the resistance to adequate testing and diagnosis.

It took me almost three years to get diagnosed, during which time I lost my job and had to endure a federal formal EEO process to get it back (a year and a half of grueling attacks, lack of pay, a lawyer, and an out of pocket trip to DC to mediate).  I have a very good local doctor, but current accepted protocols and beliefs about lyme lead her to different conclusions than me about where and how a person can get lyme, which meant having to go out of state for care.

This is why a bill like this one matters.  Without a reasonable hope of diagnosis (testing accurately is difficult, at best, with lots of different causes for false negatives) there is no hope of timely treatment and every Montanan I've come across with lyme took years to get diagnosed.

 This passed the floor 47 to 4 but I've heard there may be parties generating opposition, so please help generate support. This could really help. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Lyme Disease in Montana: Another montana mom with lyme, Great Falls article


As with many lyme disease stories I hear or read, there are elements in the story that I could have said myself. The stories in the video as well (more on those aspects my lyme experience in my health blog).

When I started to comment on the article on their website, it just got too long.  So I'm posting it here instead.

Biologists and agencies can't reliably say for sure where we do or don't have large forest carnivores, yet we trust medical doctors to reliably tell us where we do and don't have an organism too small to see.  That kind of certainly is fascinating.  The costs of the kind of survey effort it would take to conclusively disprove the presence of any 'competent' tick vector or specific species of tick would be staggering, and the likelihood that there is truly an agency currently expending that kind of money on tick surveys is much harder to believe than the idea that a bacteria present on all continents and all across this continent couldn't be here in Montana.

That would be a  pretty amazing survey strategy; to accomplish proof of absence would be a biological breakthrough and counter the tenants of biology I learned in school---absence of proof should never be considered proof of absence.  At the very least there should be very rigorous data to support the claim that we know a) the abundance and distribution of tick species throughout the state,  b) that we don't have any ticks or any organism in Montana that could be a vector for lyme disease, and c) that none of the migratory species that carry ticks from state to state continue to carry any of the species of ticks that transit lyme when they enter the state of Montana (apparently those species wait to land in Canada, or pretty much anywhere but Montana).

If we are certain enough of all of these biological assumptions to base medical policy decisions on them, I wonder which agency can afford the data collection efforts it would require to prove them.  The chain of evidence may be out there, but I find it pretty hard to believe.  It was government funded research that led to conclusions about this illness that are entirely consistent with what patients are experiencing (Dr. Burgdorf's comments in the article), but the CDC would rather hang their hats on diagnostic criteria that don't follow a clear chain of logic or proof (unless I'm very mistaken and amazing strides have recently been made in wildlife biology and entomology).

I just don't think the science is their to support the only assumptions that allow doctors (good doctors, mind you, including ones I respect) to claim it is impossible to get lyme in Montana.  And if the data were there, why would it be so poorly disclosed and explained (since it would make their point and would have been very expensive to come by)?

Zoonotic illnesses are an inherent risk of working in any animal related biological field.  But this one is a prevalent risk nationally to anyone who goes outside---how many Americans are aware that "Today, Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne illness in the United States?"

Saturday, February 9, 2013

It's raining spiders in Brazil (random science)

I saw an article posted on facebook with footage of spiders falling from the sky.  They quoted a biologist who said that the species is a social species that lives in massive colonies, and that the behavior is not unexpected/unusual.  The author contends that it is, and promises to follow up 'as answers are found'.

I started looking up some crazy things I remember reading about spiders jumping to their deaths (more on that later), but when I went back and watched the footage, they certainly were not making rapid descents, as the descriptor 'raining' would suggest.  The biologist quoted also described them as making 'sheet webs' which seems to explain this.  Either way, it's really something to see.

Article Link: Think Nemo's bad? In Brazil it's raining spiders

So, the memory this triggered for me was of a brain eating fungus that infects a particular spider host.  When the brain is infected the spider eventually climbs to the tallest tree it can find and jumps to its death.  Unfortunately I couldn't find anything on that phenomenon and got side tracked on the two following (random science) topics.

Mexican Jumping Death Spider

If this species (not actually originating in Mexico) chooses to jump and successfully reaches the apex of the jump, it will die at that point in its jump.  If it jumps or falls but does not consciously choose to do so, it will not die.  If it chooses to jump but does not reach the apex or is in some way obstructed from successfully jumping, it also will not die.

Brain eating ameoba

This ameoba is fatal for the rare swimmer that contracts it in US freshwater, with the threat each year subsiding with the onset of winter.  But a couple of people have contracted it through their neti pots.  Only a couple, but still....I think I'll be using distilled water from now on.

Friday, February 8, 2013

At least 26 cases of lyme in Montana through 2011 (per CDC)

Help educate your fellow Montanans about lyme....I hear often and have repeated myself (until a few nights ago when two nurses set me straight) that there is only one confirmed case in Montana. That was outdated by at least 2007----even the CDC acknowledges AT LEAST 26 CASES FROM 2006 TO 2011. Your chances of getting diagnosed if you live in Montana won't improve until doctors admit that its here (and that residing here does not somehow make you immune to it here or anywhere you travel).