Three Letters Re: Bad as a Bullet: Tick and Mosquito-Borne Diseases

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James: 
I live in Tennessee where mosquitoes, chiggers, and ticks thrive.  There are two wet weather ponds near my home and if I go to my shooting range in the evening or early morning, the mosquitoes will make any quality time really miserable.  While working in the gardens and fields, one has to be constantly checking themselves for ticks.
 
Last year about April I read a short paragraph in Countryside Magazine from a gentleman (I believe from Maine) that has taken a Vitamin B1 tablet starting in April and takes them every day until the first killing frost in the Fall for the past 43 years.  He never gets bitten by mosquitoes, chiggers, or ticks.
 
I decided there was nothing to lose by trying it.  It took a couple weeks for the B1 to get through my system but from that point on through Fall I never had one mosquito bite or tick bite.  I had mosquitoes land on me (briefly), ticks crawled on me while on the range, in the woods, or in the garden, but not one bite.
 
I put this information out to everyone on my email list.  One of those people is a very good friend that also happens to be a doctor (M.D.).  He emailed me back to inform me that the Vitamin B1 “trick” was one of the first things that was taught in medical school.  He and I can only offer conjecture as to why this information isn’t put out en mass.
 
I buy cheap Vitamin B1 tablets at the local big box store.  I think the price is about $4.00 for one bottle that will last one person the entire Spring/Summer insect season.  Prior to this, I was spending at least 4 times this amount of chemical sprays that were marginal at best. – Carl in Tennessee 

 

JWR:
I prefer to anesthetize ticks with nail polish remover (acetone-type) on a cotton ball or pad for 5 minutes and just flick them off outside away from my house. Ticks absorb the acetone through their “skin” as well as breathe it. It takes patience but nothing should be regurgitated from the tick into your blood stream. You should not press hard with the cotton even though it itches. Although I hate to do it, dogs and cats need Frontline. – Stuart R.

 

Mr. Rawles:
A couple of notes on the recent article “Bad as a Bullet: Tick and Mosquito-Borne Diseases”:

A few years ago it was discovered that Lyme disease is under debate as a possibly preventable hereditary illness! I had Lyme disease when I was about 19. Back around 1991. I honestly don’t remember when it was. Unfortunately, I also discovered I’m allergic to tetracycline, which at the time was the primary treatment for the disease, so I was forced to stop treatment about halfway through the cycle. Many years later when my wife was expecting our baby, I was encouraged to be retested for the Lyme spirochetes. Lyme disease is still considered a vector-borne illness, but it apparently can be transferred to children pre-natally, from the mother, with the mother now being considered the vector [as well as a genetic tendency that can be passed from either the mother or the father.] I’m not kidding. Scary stuff. I was clean of the Lyme disease so presumably my child is okay as well, but I still (20 years after contracting Lyme disease) have rheumatoid arthritis symptoms because of having it as a teenager.

Secondly, regarding Silent Spring and Rachel Carson: I have read that while eliminating DDT (and similar insecticides) has benefited some people, more people have died from malaria and other mosquito-borne illnesses than could ever have been injured by the insecticides. Rachel Carson’s primary concern was for birds’ reproductive systems, but humans are also sometimes injured by DDT. In the long term, however, more people are injured than helped by the absence of that particular pesticide. Consider this article in Audubon magazine regarding DDT. If even Audubon says DDT serves a useful role, then it might be time to overrule the Stockholm Convention and put it back into use.

Best, – J.D.C. in Mississippi

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