Chlorofluorocarbons, Ticks & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

• There is compelling evidence that man’s activities are affecting the environment, but if we are able to degrade the environment we should also be able to undo deleterious changes. For example, in Montreal in 1989, a multinational regulation was established to phase out the use of chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). These chemicals were widely used in refrigeration systems and as propellants in spray products. The chlorine atoms in CFCs interact with and “neutralize” ozone in the upper atmosphere that shields the planet from cancer-causing and crop damaging radiation. Prior to 1989 scientists sounded the alarm about loss of the ozone layer after they discovered an “ozone hole” over Antarctica. Later, they linked ozone loss to CFCs. At the time governments prohibited use of CFCs, it was estimated that even in their absence the ozone hole wouldn’t recover until 2023. Now a team of Australian scientists has provided evidence that when seasonal factors are considered, the ozone hole may be healing itself well ahead of schedule. (Source: Science News, June 4, 2011)

• Beware of ticks this summer. They behave like tiny vampire bats, for they require blood for survival. Three species commonly found in Door County can attach to people or pets. The “Black Legged Tick,” Ixodes scapularis, is the Deer Tick, a major carrier of the corkscrew-shaped bacterium that causes Lyme Disease. The Upper Midwest has the largest per capita population of deer ticks in the country. The other two species are the “Lone Star Tick,” (Amblyomma americanum) commonly found on wild turkeys, and the “Dog Tick,” Dermacentor variabilis. All three species of ticks can attach to human hosts and all three can transmit fever-producing bacteria to humans. Some of these fevers can lead to long-term health problems and even death. While the most dangerous is Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, more common in Wisconsin is Lyme Disease, which if treated early, can easily be cured. If untreated, there may be recurring symptoms lasting for months. Q-Fever, another tick-borne disease, is caused by a tiny bacterium (Coxiella burnetii) that once was stockpiled as part of our bacteriological warfare program. Q-Fever is characterized by high fever, photophobia, splitting headache, and weight loss, all of which can go on for one to two weeks. Another tick-borne illness is paralysis, caused in certain susceptible people by any attached tick. The tick causes a progressive paralysis that appears to be a reaction to a chemical in the anti-coagulant saliva of the tick that causes numbness in the vicinity of its attachment site. Once the tick is removed, the paralysis disappears. In view of all the deer and wild turkeys living in Door County, it’s important to protect yourself against ticks by wearing long trousers tucked under your socks. Spray your clothing with DEET. Check yourself after hiking. If an attached tick is found, grasp it close to the skin with tweezers and pull gently, but firmly, straight out. If no tweezers are available, use a piece of tissue or cloth. Wash the area and your hands when finished and apply an antiseptic to the bite site. (Sources: Various;

• From Smithsonian Magazine (June, 2011). “Larvae of the Southeastern beach tiger beetle have an odd way of getting around. Scientists working in Georgia found that, especially on windy days, the larvae hurl themselves into the air to catch the breeze, tuck themselves into a wheel, and roll up sand dunes as far as 200 feet at a time. Both wind-driven leaping and ‘wheel locomotion’ are rare, and this is the first creature to be observed combining the two.”

• Additional studies seeking a connection between chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and a mouse virus (SMRV) were unable to verify a link between the virus and the syndrome. So the search continues to find the cause of CFS. (Source: Science Magazine, May 13, 2011)