Lyme Disease is a multi-stage systemic bacterial infection caused by the spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi – a spiral-shaped bacterium most commonly transmitted by a tick bite. The disease’s name is from Lyme, Connecticut, where the infection was first identified in 1975.
The CDC says Lyme Disease continues to be a rapidly-emerging infectious disease. Depending on location, less than one percent to 90% of ticks are infected with bacteria. Lyme disease is a year-round problem, with most cases occurring in the coast northeast, the Mid-Atlantic States, Wisconsin and Minnesota, and California.
Symptoms are non-specific, and can affect every part of the body. Symptoms usually appear after an infected tick has bitten – from two to 21 days. However, symptoms may include:
- Stiff neck
- Aches and pains in muscles and joints
- Low-grade fever and chills
- Poor appetite
- Sore throat
- Swollen glands
- Coordination problems
- Rash – pink in the center, and deeper red on surrounding skin
Lyme Disease can be difficult to diagnosis since it can mimic other conditions like hives, sunburn, poison ivy, and skin problems. The primary symptom is rash – but that is present only in about 25% of the cases. Blood and lab tests are usually done to rule out other conditions.
Lyme disease is usually treated with antibiotics. Conditions that warrant treatment:
- You know you were bitten by a tick that tests positive for spirocytes
- You know you were bitten by a tick and show any of the above symptoms
- You know you were bitten by a tick and are pregnant
- You are bitten by a tick and live in an area where infected ticks have been documented
Some general guidelines to prevent tick bites and possible Lyme disease:
- Ticks cannot bite through clothing. Wear light-colored clothing, with long-sleeved shirts tucked into pants
- Wear socks and closed toe shoes
- If you’re going hiking where ticks may be, tuck long pants into socks.
- Check for ticks in all parts of the area that bend, around the head, areas of pressure points.
- Walk on cleared paths through wooded areas and fields if possible.
- Shower after the day’s activities are over. Water will help remove unattached ticks
- Products that contain DEET are tick repellants, but are not 100% effective.
- Treat clothing with Permethrin, known to kill ticks on contact.
Source: Centers for Disease Control