Ruling Out Other Diseases
Many other infections and medical conditions can produce fever, headache, muscle aches, and fatigue, including a very wide variety of common, generally benign viral illnesses. They can also produce some of the neurologic or cardiac features characteristic of early Lyme disease. The same tick that causes Lyme disease can also transmit other infections.
Co-Infections Transmitted by the Ixodes Tick
Babesiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever , and human granulocytic anaplasmosis are transmitted by the same tick that carries Lyme disease. People may be co-infected with one or more of these infections, all of which can cause flu-like symptoms. If these symptoms persist and there is no rash, it is less likely that Lyme disease is present.
Other Tick-Borne Infections
A number of other tick-borne diseases may resemble Lyme disease. The most important of these is southern tick-associated rash illness , which is caused by the bite of the Lone star tick, usually in southern and Southeastern parts of the United States. It causes a rash very similar to Lyme disease. The bacterium responsible for STARI remains unknown, but may be B. lonestari.
Allergic Reactions and Insect Bites
Lyme Disease In Dogs: What You Need To Know
Youve probably heard of Lyme disease. You or someone you know may have even tested positive for it, but did you know that your furry friend is just as at-risk for exposure to this dangerous disease as you are, maybe even more so? Fortunately, cats are not at risk for acquiring Lyme disease, but as we now know, their canine counterparts certainly are.
Research indicates that in 2016 and 2017, 1 in 8 dogs in Roanoke County tested positive for Lyme disease. In 2018, 1 in 9 dogs in Roanoke County tested positive, an improvement from previous years. It may seem hopeful that perhaps the tick population in our area is now less than what it was in previous years, however we strongly believe fewer dogs have tested positive for Lyme disease because of increased efforts to prevent disease transmission, like vaccination and year-round flea/tick prevention. So what exactly is Lyme disease and how can you protect your dog? Well answer these questions and more in this blog post!
What is Lyme disease and how is it transmitted?
How does Lyme disease differ in humans and in dogs?
Over 90% of infected humans show signs of Lyme disease and the initial signs of the disease in humans are typically the classic bulls eye lesion and flu-like symptoms. In dogs, on the other hand, clinical signs of Lyme disease are observed in only about 5-15% of infected cases. When early signs do occur, they typically occur about two months after infection.
What are signs of Lyme disease in dogs?
Clinical Signs And Pathology
Lyme disease in humans is usually not a life-threatening illness and one should regard the health risks it does pose with concern rather than alarm. It is most often a mild illness mimicking a summer flu, but serious problems involving the heart, joints and nervous system may develop in some individuals.
Lyme disease in humans may progress through three stages, depending upon the individual. In stage 1, people may have any combination of the following signs and symptoms: headache, nausea, fever, spreading rash, aching joints and muscles and fatigue. These signs and symptoms may disappear altogether, or they may reoccur intermittently for several months. A characteristic red rash, called erythema migrans may appear within 3 to 32 days after a person is bitten by an infected tick. The rash is circular in shape and can attain a diameter of 2 to 20 inches. EM is not restricted to the bite site and more than one lesion may occur on the body. Up to 30% of the people who have Lyme disease do not develop EM lesions, making diagnosis more difficult.
In stage 2 , some people may develop complications involving the heart and/or nervous system. Specific disorders may include various degrees of heart block, nervous system abnormalities such as meningitis, encephalitis, and facial paralysis , and other conditions involving peripheral nerves. Painful joints, tendons, or muscles may also be noted during this stage of the disease.
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Treating Late Stage Lyme Disease
Most cases of Lyme disease involve a rash and flu-like symptoms that resolve within 1 month of antibiotic treatment. However, some people go on to develop late-stage Lyme disease, which includes Lyme arthritis and neurologic Lyme disease.
Untreated, slightly more than half of people infected with B. burgdorferi will develop Lyme arthritis. About 10% to 20 % of people develop neurologic Lyme disease. A very small percentage may develop acrodermatitis chronica atrophicans, a serious type of skin inflammation occurring more frequently in Europe. These conditions are treated for up to 28 days with antibiotic therapy.
If arthritis symptoms persist for several months, a second 2 to 4 week course of antibiotics may be recommended. Oral antibiotics are used for Lyme arthritis and acrodermatitis chronica atrophicans.
In rare cases, people with arthritis may need intravenous antibiotics. A 2 to 4 week course of intravenous ceftriaxone is used for treating severe cases of neurological Lyme disease. For milder cases, 2 to 4 weeks of oral doxycycline is an effective option.
What Should You Do If You Find A Tick
Don’t touch the tick with your bare hand.
Use a pair of tweezers to remove the tick. Grab the tick firmly by its mouth or head as close to your skin as possible.
Pull up slowly and steadily without twisting until it lets go. Don’t squeeze the tick, and don’t use petroleum jelly, solvents, knives, or a lit match to kill the tick.
Save the tick. Place it in a plastic container or bag so it can be tested for disease, if needed.
Wash the bite area well with soap and water and put an antiseptic lotion or cream on the site.
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Treating Early Stage Lyme Disease
The early stages of Lyme disease usually include the bull’s-eye rash and flu-like symptoms of chills and fever, fatigue, muscle pain, and headache. In rare cases, people develop an abnormal heartbeat .
All of these conditions are treated with 14 to 28 days antibiotics courses. The exact number of days depends on the drug used and the person’s response to it. Antibiotics for treating Lyme disease generally include:
- Doxycycline. This antibiotic is effective against both Lyme disease and human granulocytic anaplasmosis . It is the standard antibiotic for anyone over 8 years old, except for pregnant women. It is a form of tetracycline and can discolor teeth and inhibit bone growth in young children. It can also cause birth defects if used during pregnancy.
- Amoxicillin. This type of penicillin is probably the best antibiotic for pregnant women. Some people are allergic to penicillin and strains of Lyme bacteria are emerging that are resistant to it.
- Cefuroxime . This cephalosporin antibiotic is an alternative treatment for young children and for adults with penicillin allergy.
- Intravenous ceftriaxone or cefotaxime. Intravenous infusions of one of these cephalosporin antibiotics may be warranted if there are signs of infection in the central nervous system or heart.
Other types of antibiotics, such as macrolides like azithromycin and clarithromycin, are not recommended for first-line therapy.
Antibiotic Side Effects
Early Disseminated Lyme Disease
If left untreated, the infection can spread through the bloodstream and lymphatic vessels within weeks to months where it may affect the joints, nervous system, heart, or other organs. Symptoms of early disseminated Lyme disease include:
- Multiple bull’s eye rashes on various parts of the body.
- Weakness or paralysis in the muscles of the face
- Stiff and painful neck, which may be a sign of Lyme meningitis
- Heart problems symptoms include light-headedness, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, chest pain, or fainting
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How Do I Know If I Have A Tick Bite
Many people who develop the disease do not remember seeing ticks or being bitten. Tick bites commonly occur from May to September in North America, although blacklegged ticks can be active most of the year. Ticks sometimes move around on the body but they usually attach themselves to the skin and stay in one place. Before feeding, ticks look like small, brown scabs or freckles. After feeding, ticks may swell considerably, and could be as big as a raisin or a small grape.
Follow the link for more information about blacklegged ticks from the Government of Canada.
The Cycle Of Infection
The blacklegged tick has a 2-year life cycle during which it goes through 3 stages of development:
- Egg. Adult females lay eggs during the spring of year 1. Eggs are deposited usually on the ground in the area where the female detached from its host.
- Larva Stage. In spring and summer of year 1, 6-legged larvae hatch from eggs. They take their first meal from a mouse, bird, or other small animal. This is when larvae can first acquire the B. burgdorferi spirochete but they do not transmit it at this stage. After feeding, the larvae fall off their hosts and molt into nymphs, which become dormant for the fall and winter of year 1.
- Nymph Stage. In the spring and summer of year 2, the 8-legged nymph ticks wake up and begin to feed on wild animals , domestic animals , or humans. Peak activity is usually from late May through July, although this can vary depending on climate. Most cases of Lyme disease are transmitted by nymphs.
- Adult Stage. In the fall of year 2, the nymphs become 8-legged adults. Only the adult female takes a blood meal. Adult female ticks may also transmit Lyme disease. For their third and final meal, female ticks seek a larger animal. After feeding, they mate with males, drop off the host, lay eggs, and then die. White-tailed deer are the main hosts for adult ticks. Female ticks feed on deer, while male ticks attach themselves to deer to wait for the females.
Keep in mind that:
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Remove The Tick Promptly And Properly:
- Using tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible.
- Gently pull the tick in a steady, upward motion.
- Wash the area with a disinfectant.
- When trying to remove the tick:
- DO NOT touch the tick with your bare hands.
- DO NOT squeeze the body of the tick as this may increase your risk of infection.
- DO NOT put alcohol, nail polish remover or Vaseline on the tick.
- DO NOT put a hot match or cigarette on the tick in an effort to make it “back out.”
- DO NOT use your fingers to remove the tick.
These methods do not work and only increase the likelihood the tick will transmit Lyme disease to you. Applying alcohol, nail polish remover, or a hot match can irritate a tick and cause it to regurgitate its gut contents into your skin. The gut contents of a tick can contain the Lyme disease-causing bacterium.
While removing a tick, if the tick’s mouthparts break off and remain in your skin, don’t worry. The mouthparts alone cannot transmit Lyme disease, because the infective body of the tick is no longer attached. The mouthparts can be left alone. They will dry up and fall out by themselves in a few days, or you can remove them as you would a splinter.
Are Some Locations More At Risk Than Others
Yes and no. There are areas in which the bacteria is endemic meaning the disease is established and present more or less continually in that community.
In Canada, blacklegged tick populations have been confirmed or are growing in the following areas:
- Southern British Columbia.
- Southern New Brunswick and Grand Manan Island.
- South shore and northern mainland Nova Scotia.
However, it is important to note that ticks can be spread by birds, in particular songbirds that feed off the forest floor. Because these birds are migratory, there is the potential for new populations of the bacteria to spread across the country. This fact means that you do not have to be in an endemic or high-risk area to be at risk of contacting ticks and the disease.
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Questions To Ask Your Veterinarian
If your dog has a positive Lyme test but no symptoms of the disease or protein in the urine, ask your veterinarian why he or she is recommending treatment. Experts currently recommend against antibiotic therapy under these circumstances because the dogs immune system is holding the bacteria in check and antibiotics are unable to eliminate the infection.
Dogs who have contracted Lyme disease do not develop prolonged, protective immunity and can be reinfected at a later date. Talk to your veterinarian about how best to prevent future infections. Options include measures to prevent the ticks that carry Lyme disease from biting your dog and Lyme vaccination.
What Is The Outlook For Someone With Lyme Disease
Most of the people who get Lyme disease and receive treatment early will be fine. Treatment can cure Lyme disease but you might still have some long-term effects. Untreated Lyme disease may contribute to other serious problems but its rarely fatal.
Post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome
Even after proper treatment, some people may experience lingering fatigue, achiness or headaches. This is known as post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome or PTLDS. The symptoms dont mean that you still have an infection. PTLDS probably wont respond to additional antibiotics. The majority of people in this group will have symptoms that resolve at some point over the next six months.
Chronic Lyme disease
Chronic Lyme disease is a term used by some for a condition in a person who had Lyme disease and the symptoms of PTLDS. Some people consider chronic Lyme disease to be the same as PTLDS. However, some people receive a chronic Lyme disease diagnosis without a Lyme disease diagnosis. Sometimes, extended treatment with antibiotics helps.
This term may be why some people think a Lyme disease infection can occur without being bitten by a tick. There isn’t enough proof that mosquitoes can transmit Lyme disease. Many researchers dislike using the term chronic Lyme disease.
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Can One Die Of Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is an inflammatory disease typically marked by a fever, headache, chills, and bulls-eye rash, and later by arthritis, cardiac, and neurological disorders, caused by bacteria that are spread by ticks. Lyme disease is common in North America, Europe, and Asia and is caused by the bacterium borrelia burgdorfi, and infected ticks spread the disease by biting people and/or animals. There are two kinds of ticks that carry Lyme disease in the U.S. They are the deer tick, found in the Northeast and Midwest, and the western black-legged tick, predominantly found along the Pacific coast in northern California and Oregon.
Can Lyme Disease Be Treated
In most cases, yes. Antibiotics can effectively treat Lyme disease, especially when treatment begins early. Cases that reach the later stages of the disease, however, can be difficult to treat and some symptoms can persist.
PHAC reports that removing the tick within 24-36 hours usually prevents infection.
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What Tests Are Available For Lyme Disease
When a person becomes infected, the body creates antibodies to protect itself from the bacteria. Certain blood tests are available to measure these antibodies. However, sometimes a “false negative” test can result if there are not enough antibodies in the blood for the tests to detect accurately. A doctor should also do a complete medical examination and gather information about your recent outdoor activities in order to make a clinical diagnosis for Lyme disease.
Lyme Disease In New York State
The New York State Department of Health and local health departments continue to investigate the spread of Lyme disease throughout New York State. Lyme disease is a bacterial infection caused by the bite of an infected deer tick. Untreated, the disease can cause a number of health problems. Patients treated with antibiotics in the early stage of the infection usually recover rapidly and completely. Since Lyme disease first became reportable in 1986, over 98,500 cases have been confirmed in New York State.
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Polymerase Chain Reaction Test
The polymerase chain reaction test detects the DNA of the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. It is sometimes used for select individuals who have neurological symptoms or Lyme arthritis. The PCR test is performed on spinal fluid collected from a lumbar puncture or synovial fluid . This test is generally available only in research settings and for most people, standard 2-step tests are preferred.
Lyme Disease: Signs And Symptoms
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Early Localized Lyme Disease
In the majority of cases, the first sign of Lyme disease is the appearance of a bull’s-eye rash called erythema migrans , which surrounds the site of the bite. It usually develops about 1 to 2 weeks after the bite, but can appear as soon as 3 days or as late as 1 month after. In some cases, it is never detected. The rash is often accompanied by flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, fatigue, neck pain and stiffness, and body aches.
The bull’s-eye skin rash is considered a classic sign of Lyme disease. It usually appears on the thigh, buttock, or trunk in older children and adults, and on the head or neck in younger children.
The bull’s-eye rash may take the following course:
- It can first appear as a pimple-like spot that expands over the next few days into a purplish circle. The circle may reach up to 6 inches in diameter with a deeper red rim. In some cases the ring is incomplete, forming an arc rather than a full circle.
- The center of the rash often clears or may turn bluish. Or secondary concentric rings may develop within the original ring, creating the bull’s-eye pattern. Over the next several days or 1 to 2 weeks, the circular rash may grow to as large as 20 inches across
- The rash has a burning sensation. On darker-skinned people, the rash may resemble a bruise. In most people, the rash fades completely after 3 to 4 weeks. Secondary rashes may appear during the later stages of disease.