In 2013, after years of undiagnosed illness in our family, we became alarmed at the realization that the degradation of our health was due to multiple tick-borne infections, including Lyme disease. Who knew that the bite of a single tick could do so much damage? How is it that we were not aware of the risks, prevention measures, and the signs and symptoms of disease? My husband and I had worked as outdoor professionals (Forestry, Wildlife and Wildland Fire Fighting) for our entire careers. We were routinely exposed in tick habitat through both work and recreational pursuits. Why wasn’t this information being shared in our schools, workplace, medical offices or communities? Why weren’t there better diagnostics or access to care from knowledgeable professionals in our state? We discovered that the issues surrounding Lyme and other tick-borne diseases affects far too many Coloradans and that risk, prevention and recognition of these diseases is not common knowledge in our region of the country.
We initially formed the group “Biting Back: Elevating Tick Awareness in Colorado” dedicated to elevating awareness in our local community. Through private funds and generous donations from family and friends we hosted awareness events, provided educational and safety programs in schools and for the US Forest Service, distributed resource materials to outdoor education groups, medical providers, and our local paper. We formed relationships with our local health department, Chaffee County Public Health, to work together to educate our community. Through sponsorship with Lyme Disease Association, Inc., we were able to host “Lyme & Other Tick-Borne Diseases: 1st Rocky Mountain Forum” to bring awareness to a higher level in Colorado and throughout the Rocky Mountains in May of 2016.
We have made many friends, and met many people along the way that have had personal experience with one or many of these diseases. For some, their experience has been a bump in the road; for others this exposure has resulted in debilitating, life threatening illness and even death.
There continues to be conflicting information about the risk of infection and how best to treat Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. Widespread belief is that many of these diseases do not occur in Colorado. Lack of research, inventory and surveillance efforts in Colorado has left gaps of knowledge about the prevalence and risk from ticks and diseases for our state. Colorado has a shortage of medical care providers with experience in recognition, diagnosis and treatment of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.
Prevention is the most effective means to avoid tick-borne illnesses; and access to accurate, timely diagnosis and care is key to a positive outcome when having contact with many of the diseases that ticks can transmit.
Our goal is to provide education, information and awareness necessary for individuals to protect themselves from exposure, recognize the diseases, and to advocate for themselves, their families and their pets when faced with an infection no matter where they live, recreate or travel.
We are determined to help fill in the gaps of information regarding what we know about distribution and prevalence of ticks and tick-borne infections in Colorado through citizen science studies in order to better describe the risks in Colorado.
We wish to help our Colorado medical care providers recognize, diagnose and properly treat patients faced with these sometimes debilitating or even deadly diseases. We are determined to support patients seeking a timely and correct diagnosis and those that are fighting chronic illness as a result of infections, most often those afflicted by Lyme disease, the most commonly reported vector borne illness in the United States.
As a group we were determined to make a change so we founded Colorado Tick-Borne Disease Awareness Association, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization to more effectively carry out our mission.
COTBDAA gives thanks to our fellow advocates, researchers and friends that have shared their work and wisdom in support of our organization:
John D. Scott, Research Scientist, Ontario, Canada
Dr. H. Joel Hutcheson, Entomologist
Mary Gillespie, Photos
Victoria Bocash, logo design
Anne Wood and Taylor Skye Schwabe, graphics design
Nancy Wrigley, support & partnership
And our National partner affiliate!