With the number of tick-borne illnesses on the rise in the U.S., Avril Lavigne's public reveal of her recent battle with Lyme disease is a timely cautionary tale for the rest of us.
The singer, best-known for hits like "Complicated" and "Girlfriend," had fans concerned last year after disappearing from the public eye for several months. After rumors surfaced that she was in rehab, Lavigne took to Twitter to announce instead that she was instead battling a private illness. "I'm not feeling well. I'm having some health issues. So please keep me in your prayers," she wrote.
In a new People magazine interview, Lavigne revealed that for much of 2014 she was in the throes of a battle with Lyme disease.
"I had no idea a bug bite could do this," she said "I was bedridden for five months."
"I felt like I couldn't breathe, I couldn't talk and I couldn't move," she added. "I thought I was dying. There were definitely times I couldn't shower for a full week because I could barely stand. It felt like having all your life sucked out of you."
While the CDC receives reports of about 30,000 cases of Lyme disease in the U.S. each year, the group estimates that the number is likely 10 times higher.
"We know that routine surveillance only gives us part of the picture, and that the true number of illnesses is much greater,” said Paul Mead, M.D., M.P.H, chief of epidemiology and surveillance for CDC’s Lyme disease program. "This new preliminary estimate confirms that Lyme disease is a tremendous public health problem in the United States, and clearly highlights the urgent need for prevention."
It's also worth noting that when a tick bites you, a whole cocktail of diseases has the potential to infect you — not just Lyme.
"Lyme disease is the tip of the iceberg," Durland Fish, epidemiologist at Yale School of Public Health, told Scientific American. "There are worse diseases coming down the pike."
Those diseases include the Heartland virus, Babesiosis, Powassan virus, Borrelia miyamotoi, and several others with terrifying names.
As for Lavigne, she says she's feeling 80 percent better, adding "this was a wake-up call. I really just want to enjoy life from here on out."
To learn about the best way to avoid and/or remove ticks, check out the CDC's informative website here.
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