What Is Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is an infection caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. This spiral shaped bacterium is most commonly spread by a tick bite. The disease takes its name from Lyme, Connecticut. This is where the illness was first identified in the United States in 1975.
Although Lyme disease is a year-round problem, April through October is considered tick season. Cases of Lyme disease have been reported in nearly all states in the U.S. and in large areas in Europe and Asia, but the most common areas are the Northeast, upper Midwest and northwestern states.
Where Can I Get More Information
- For questions about your own health, contact your doctor, nurse, or clinic
- For questions about diseases spread by ticks, contact the MDPH at 983-6800 or online on the MDPH Tickborne Diseases website . You may also contact your local Board of Health .
- Health effects of pesticides, MDPH, Bureau of Environmental Health at 624-5757
Chinese, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, Spanish, and Vietnamese translations of this fact sheet are available under additional resources.
How To Avoid Tick Bites
To reduce the chance of being bitten:
- cover your skin while walking outdoors and tuck your trousers into your socks
- use insect repellent on your clothes and skin products containing DEET are best
- stay on clear paths whenever possible
- wear light-coloured clothing so ticks are easier to see and brush off
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How Is Lyme Disease Spread
Not all deer ticks are infected with the bacteria that cause Lyme disease. Ticks can become infected if they feed on animals such as mice and other mammals that are infected. The disease can be spread when an infected tick bites a person and stays attached for a period of time. In general, the tick must be attached for 36 to 48 hours or more. Lyme disease does not spread from one person to another. Transfer of the bacteria from an infected pregnant woman to her fetus is extremely rare.
What Causes Lyme Disease In A Child
Lyme disease is caused by bacteria that are spread to people by tick bites. The ticks that carry the bacteria are:
- Black-legged deer tick. These are found in the Northeastern, Mid-Atlantic, and North-Central U.S.
- Western black-legged tick. These are found on the West Coast of the U.S.
Not all ticks carry the Lyme disease bacteria. Depending on the location, less than 1 in 100 to more than half of ticks in that area may be infected with Lyme.
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Stage : Early Disseminated Lyme Disease
Early disseminated Lyme disease occurs several weeks to months after the tick bite.
Youll have a general feeling of being unwell, and a rash may appear in areas other than the tick bite.
This stage of the disease is primarily characterized by evidence of systemic infection, which means infection has spread throughout the body, including to other organs.
Symptoms can include:
- disturbances in heart rhythm, which can be caused by Lyme carditis
- neurologic conditions, such as numbness, tingling, facial and cranial nerve palsies, and meningitis
The symptoms of stages 1 and 2 can overlap.
Which Areas Are More Likely To Have It
The tick that causes Lyme disease has been moving from the Northeast and upper Midwest into the Southern and Western U.S., Mexico, and Canada. Cases in California and Florida are on the rise. After a drop between 2017 and 2018, the numbers jumped a little bit in 2019.
But most Lyme cases in 2019 were in 15 states: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New
Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Washington, DC, is also a hotspot.
In 2019, Pennsylvania had the most Lyme infections, with 6,763. New York was next, with 2,847 cases.
In the Southern U.S., where itâs hotter, ticks stay under leaves so they don’t dry out. This means people donât get Lyme from Southern ticks very often because they don’t usually come out to bite.
Even though people only report about 30,000 cases of Lyme infection in the U.S. each year, there are actually around 476,000 a year. The same tick also can spread other diseases, including babesiosis, anaplasmosis, and Powassan virus. Those diseases are also on the rise in the U.S.
Whoâs likeliest to get Lyme disease?
Boys up to age 15 and men between the ages of 40 and 60 are the most likely to get Lyme disease. Thatâs because they tend to play outside and go camping, hunting, and hiking.
Why are there more ticks now than there used to be?
There are several reasons why Lyme is spreading. Some of these are:
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Is There A Vaccine That Will Protect My Dog From Lyme Disease
A safe and generally effective vaccine is available for protecting dogs against Lyme disease. This vaccine is initially given twice, at two- to four-week intervals.
“Annual revaccination is necessary to maintain immunity.”
Annual revaccination is necessary to maintain immunity. Vaccination against Lyme disease will be determined by your pet’s lifestyle and individual risk assessment. Be sure to discuss any questions you may have regarding the type and frequency of vaccination with your veterinarian.
|Contributors: Ryan Llera, BSc, DVM Ernest Ward, DVM
When Should You See A Doctor If You Think You Have Lyme
The rash is a pretty good indication that you may have been bitten. Take a photo of the rash and see your doctor. At this stage, treatment with antibiotics will probably work.
If you don’t have the rash but have symptoms like fatigue, fever, and headache but no respiratory symptoms like a cough, you may want to talk to your doctor.
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What Are The Stages Of Lyme Infection
There are three stages:
- Early localized Lyme: Flu-like symptoms like fever, chills, headache, swollen lymph nodes, sore throat, and a rash that looks like a bull’s-eye or is round and red and at least 2 inches long
- Early disseminated Lyme: Flu-like symptoms like pain, weakness, or numbness in your arms and legs, changes in your vision, heart palpitations and chest pain, a rash , and a type of facial paralysis known as Bellâs palsy
- Late disseminated Lyme: This can happen weeks, months, or years after the tick bite. Symptoms might include arthritis, severe fatigue and headaches, dizziness, trouble sleeping, and confusion.
About 10% of people treated for Lyme infection donât shake the disease. They may go on to have three core symptoms: joint or muscle pain, fatigue, and short-term memory loss or confusion. This is called post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome. It can be hard to diagnose because it has the same symptoms as other diseases. Plus, there isn’t a blood test to confirm it.
Experts arenât sure why Lyme symptoms donât always go away. One theory is that your body keeps fighting the infection even after the bacteria are gone, like an autoimmune disorder.
How Do I Remove A Tick From My Dog
Check your pet immediately after it has been in a tick-infected area. The deer tick is a small tick and only about pinhead size in juvenile stage, but is a little more obvious in the adult phase and after feeding. If you find a tick moving on your pet, the tick has not fed. Remove the tick promptly and place it in rubbing alcohol or crush it between two solid surfaces. If you find a tick attached to your pet, grasp the tick with fine tweezers or your finger nails near the dogs skin and firmly pull it straight out. There are also tools available called Tick Twister® or Tick Key® which can be useful. However, take care to use them cautiously as twisting or jerking the tick may cause the mouth parts to break off and remain in the skin. See your veterinarian if you are unsure or unable to remove the tick from your dog.
Make sure you protect your fingers from exposure by using a tissue or a disposable glove.You may need another person to help restrain your dog. Removing the tick quickly is important since the disease does not appear to be transmitted until the tick has fed for approximately 12 hours. If you crush the tick, do not get the ticks contents, including blood, on your skin.
Note: The bacterium that causes Lyme disease can pass through a wound or cut in your skin.
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How Should A Tick Be Removed
Grasp the mouthparts with tweezers as close as possible to the attachment site. Be careful not to squeeze, crush or puncture the body of the tick, which may contain infectious fluids. Pull firmly and steadily upward to remove the tick. After removing the tick, thoroughly disinfect the bite site and wash hands. The NYSDOH has created a video on proper tick removal and a printable card with steps on how to remove ticks . See or call a doctor if there are concerns about incomplete tick removal. Do not attempt to remove ticks by using petroleum jelly, lit cigarettes or other home remedies because these may actually increase the chance of contracting a tick-borne disease.
I Just Found A Tick Attached To Me What Should I Do
Dont panic. First, remove the tick with a pair of tweezers. Grasp the tick close to the skin and pull directly upwards until the tick comes free.
Try to remove the tick whole. If you do, it is likely the tick will still be alive and moving.
Place the tick in a plastic bag or other sealed container. Try to identify what kind of tick it is that bit you. An online tick identification chart, like the one from the University of Rhode Islands TickEncounter Resource Center may be helpful. If you are not sure what type of tick bit you, it is best to bring it to your doctor or someone else who can identify ticks.
Its important to remember that Lyme disease is not the only infection spread by deer ticks, and deer ticks are not the only ticks that can spread infections. After any tick bite, you should monitor your health. If you develop a high fever or chills, you should seek medical attention, and be sure to mention to the doctor that you have recently had a tick bite.
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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.
Questions To Ask Your Doctor
- I found a tick embedded in my skin, but I cant get it out. What should I do?
- Ive been bitten by a tick. Do I need to be seen?
- Do I need a blood test to confirm Lyme disease?
- Which antibiotic is best for me?
- How long will I have to take the antibiotic?
- What tick or insect repellent should I use for me or my child?
- How long will the symptoms last?
- What should I do if I still dont feel well a long time after I was bitten?
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Where Are Ticks That Carry Lyme Disease Found
Ticks that carry Lyme disease can be found anywhere their hosts live, in short, anywhere in the world. They prefer moist shady areas. The phrase deer tick, the name commonly used for the species of ticks that carry Lyme disease, is somewhat of a misnomer. Although deer are important as reproductive hosts in the lifecycle of these ticks, other vertebrate animals actually infect the ticks with disease organisms not the deer. These animals include white-footed mice, chipmunks, shrews, several species of ground feeding birds , and many other small mammals. Lyme disease ticks can be found in:
- Leaf litter
- Tall grass, bushy areas and beach grass
- Areas planted with pachysandra or other ground covers
- Lawn perimeters where they meet forest, woodlot or garden edges
Signs And Symptoms Of Lyme Disease
Many people with early symptoms of Lyme disease develop a circular rash around the tick bite. The rash:
- usually develops around 3 to 30 days after you’ve been bitten
- is often described as looking like a bull’s-eye on a dart board
- will be red and the edges may feel slightly raised
- may get bigger over several days or weeks
- is typically around 15 cm across, but it can be much larger or smaller
Some people may develop several rashes in different parts of their body.
Around 1 in 3 people with Lyme disease won’t develop a rash.
Some people with Lyme disease also have flu-like symptoms in the early stages, such as:
Remember to tell them you’ve been bitten by a tick.
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Can Lyme Disease Be Prevented
People aren’t able to become immune to Lyme disease. So even if you’ve had Lyme disease, you can get it again. No vaccine is available currently to prevent the disease.
The FDA approved a Lyme vaccine called LYMErix in 1998. The vaccine was not 100% effective, however. The FDA still recommended preventing the disease in other ways. In 2002, the company that made LYMErix said it would no longer offer the vaccine.
To help prevent Lyme disease, follow these guidelines.
How Is Lyme Disease Diagnosed
Lyme disease is difficult to diagnose because symptoms are not consistent and may mimic other conditions. The primary symptom is a rash, but it may not be present in up to 20% of cases.
Diagnosis for Lyme disease must be made by a healthcare provider experienced in recognizing Lyme disease. Diagnosis is usually based on symptoms and a history of a tick bite. Testing is generally done to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other conditions. This may need blood and other lab tests.
Research is underway to develop and improve methods for diagnosing Lyme disease.
The symptoms of Lyme disease may look like other medical conditions or problems. Always talk with your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
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Should I Be Tested For Lyme Disease After A Tick Bite
Lyme testing relies on detecting antibodies the bodys reaction to the germ not the germ itself. It takes time for the body to make antibodies, at least a couple of weeks after you have become infected. Someone with symptoms of very early Lyme disease is likely to have a negative Lyme antibody test. On the other hand, false positive Lyme tests can happen, so someone without symptoms of Lyme disease who tests positive is unlikely to really have the disease. Testing for Lyme disease shortly after a tick bite is not helpful, says Dr. Baer and may lead to a prescription for a medication that you just dont need.
Who Gets Lyme Disease And At What Time Of Year
Lyme disease is transmitted via the bite of infected ticks, which attach to any part of the body, but often to moist or hairy areas such as the groin, armpits, and scalp.
While everyone is susceptible to tick bites, campers, hikers, and people who work in gardens and other leafy outdoor venues are at the greatest risk of tick bites. As many a suburban gardener can attest, with the expansion of the suburbs and a push to conserve wooded areas, deer and mice populations are thriving, too, providing ample blood meals for ticks. For lyme disease to be transmitted, a tick needs to feed on the host for 24-48 hours.
In the majority of cases, tick bites are reported in the summer months when ticks are most active and people spend more time outdoors. But this can extend into the warmer months of early autumn, too, or even late winter if temperatures are unusually high. Similarly, a mild winter can allow ticks, much like other insects, to thrive and emerge earlier than usual.
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Early Signs And Symptoms
Ticks And Lyme Disease What You Need To Know
- May 15th, 2020
Tick bites are common and with the increasing prevalence of Lyme disease in our area, tick bites cause a lot of worry for parents and children. If you or your child gets a tick bite dont panic, it is important to make note of the size, color, and shape of the tick and to remove the tick promptly.
Our patients and their parents have been asking a lot of excellent questions about tick bites and Lyme disease. Please find the answers to these frequently asked questions below and call us with any questions or concerns.
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