For a long time, Lyme disease was not a condition that was widely known to the public, or one that was given much attention by the medical community at large. That’s why it’s so encouraging that the disease is now beginning to be more fully researched, as well as talked about more within the general public and with the individuals who are most affected by it. In order to help further disseminate information about the condition, there are a number of ways to help spread awareness of Lyme disease.
What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is an infectious disease caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, which is spread most commonly by tick bites. The condition first got its name in the 1970s when a group of people started experiencing similar symptoms in an American town called Lyme in Connecticut. A scientist named Willy Burgdorfer began studying the connection between these symptoms and tick bites back in 1981. With more research and more accurate diagnosis tools, the number of cases of Lyme around the world has significantly grown within the past few decades. In fact, there are an estimated 8,000 cases of Lyme this year in the UK alone.
Symptoms of Lyme disease can include a red, bullseye rash at the site of the bite, flu-like symptoms (including headaches, fever and malaise), joint or muscle pain, and extreme fatigue. Treatment typically consists of a course of antibiotics. Acute Lyme generally goes away with this type of treatment. However, there are chronic cases where the infection has been allowed to flourish (either because of too much time spent without an accurate diagnosis, or because some people don’t respond to antibiotics). These individuals often have more severe symptoms, such as cognitive problems and mobility issues, and then need to receive more antibiotics – usually through an IV in hospital.
What steps are being taken to spread awareness of Lyme disease?
There is a very strong community of people working to educate the public about the dangers of Lyme disease. More patients are sharing their stories and more press has been given to the condition, including how to prevent it and what its symptoms are. The medical community has helped encourage awareness with vocal support for more research, better diagnosis tools and improved treatment options. Foundations and charities around the globe have also worked to shine a light on Lyme disease.
However, there is more progress that needs to be made in order to better understand the illness. More medical professionals need to be educated so that they’re Lyme-literate, and more research needs to be conducted to further understand the condition. Additional community outreach and support groups can also help Lyme disease live less in the shadows.
What can individuals do to help spread Lyme disease awareness?
Here are some ideas for how people can get involved in the Lyme disease cause.
Decorate your house or whole community green.
Some people have spread awareness by ‘painting’ their house or their whole town green (with paint, yarn, etc.). This can even be something simple like putting up green ribbons or adding green light bulbs so that people will stop and ask what the colour represents. This can be a great way to open up the conversation about Lyme disease.
Wear green in an effort to spread the word.
Some individuals have taken to wearing lime green (including T-shirts that have Lyme disease information on them). If anyone asks about the significance of the colour, it’s an easy opening for some simple Lyme disease education.
Celebrate Lyme Disease Awareness Month.
Around the globe, the month of May serves as Lyme Disease Awareness Month. This time of year can be a great catalyst for people to hold fundraisers or special events dedicated to Lyme disease research and education.
Distribute Lyme disease literature.
To help get more people educated, individuals can hand out Lyme literature, such as brochures and flyers, or hang up posters and signs that can help bring awareness on common signs of Lyme disease or how to prevent tick bites.
Schedule a viewing party for Lyme disease projects.
People can hold special viewing parties or screenings for Lyme disease movies, such as the documentary Under Our Skin. This film (and its sequel Emergence) showcases the difficulties of living with Lyme disease and can help others really understand the challenges of the condition. Screenings at local libraries or recreation centres (or even just in someone’s backyard) can create an ideal environment for having informative discussions.
Create or join Lyme disease fundraisers.
There are Lyme disease fundraisers happening all over the world with in-person groups, as well as with virtual fundraisers (like the #LymeDiseaseChallenge). Whether you’re donating money or just your time, taking part in these fundraisers can be really beneficial to the Lyme disease community. Plus, if there aren’t any fundraisers already in place, people can create their own!
Talk about Lyme disease.
Spending time talking about Lyme disease can be one of the best ways to educate the public. Communities can arrange Lyme education events (in schools, libraries etc.) to help raise awareness and get the public involved. Spreading the word on social media can also get people talking, even if it’s just a post on Facebook or Twitter. Lyme disease patients sharing their stories on social media or through Lyme disease support groups can also be helpful for other patients and their loved ones, too.
Do some public outreach.
Public outreach can cover a huge range of activities, including setting up billboards or ads with Lyme disease awareness messages, writing a letter to the editor of the local paper, or writing a press release for the media. Any of these steps will help increase awareness and provide opportunities for education.
The more we all know about Lyme disease, the more effective we’ll be at fighting it. With more education and general awareness, the public will be better able to protect themselves from contracting Lyme disease and recognising the symptoms if they do appear. Even if you don’t have a lot of money to donate to research or a big platform to reach a large audience, there are still plenty of ideas (like the ones listed above) for spreading awareness of this condition.