The 411 on Lyme Disease

May 1, 2015 by Kimberly McCay

With summer right around the corner Lyme Disease cases are sure to rise. Learn how to protect yourself and pets from this tick transmitted disease.

What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is an infection that is transmitted by ticks. Ticks that have been infected with a bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi can transmit Lyme Disease to humans and pets. Ticks typically get the bacterium by biting infected animals, like deer and mice. Although most people who get tick bites do not get Lyme disease it is a disease that can be very serious if not treated promptly.  The risk for contracting the disease increases the longer the tick is attached to the body.

 

Where is it prevalent?

Lyme Disease can be found predominantly in the upper east coast , upper midwest, northern California and the Oregon coast. The disease is slowly spreading inland most likely due to bird and deer migration.

To determine if you could be at risk for lyme Disease you should assess whether deer ticks are active in your area. The population density and percentage of infected ticks that may transmit Lyme Disease vary greatly from one region to another. There is an even great variation from county to county within a state and from area to area within a county. For example, less than 5% of adult ticks south of Maryland are infected with Borrelia burgdorferi, while up to 50% are infected in tick infested areas in the northeast. The tick infection rate in Pacific coastal states is between 2% and 4%.

The prevalence of Lyme Disease in the northeast and upper mid-west is due to the presence of large numbers of the deer tick’s preferred hosts – white-footed mice and deer – and their proximity to humans. White-footed mice serve as the principal “reservoirs of infection” on which many larval and juvenile ticks feed and become infected with the Lyme Disease spirochete. An infected tick can then transmit infection the next time it feeds on another host, such as a human or pet.

 

How can I protect myself from Lyme Disease?

There is currenly no vaccine for Lyme Disease. Vaccines were formerly on the market but have not been commercially available since 2002. Further studies of Lyme Disease vaccines are needed.

To best protect yourself avoid tick-infested areas. Lyme disease is transmitted by ticks attaching to the body so it is important to use tick-bite protection techniques when visiting known tick-infested areas. Using spray insect repellant containing DEET onto exposed skin can deter ticks. Wear long pants tucked into boots and long sleeves to protect the skin. Clothing, children, and pets should be examined for ticks periodically while outdoors and then thourougly once returning home. Ticks can be removed gently with tweezers and saved in a jar for later identification if needed. Once returning home bathe the skin and scalp and wash clothing.

 

What are the symptoms of Lyme Disease?

The first symptom is usually an expanding rash (called erythema migrans, or EM, in medical terms) which is thought to occur in up to 90% of all Lyme Disease cases. An EM rash generally has the following characteristics:

  • Usually (but not always) radiates from the site of the tickbite
  • Appears either as a solid red expanding rash or blotch, or a central spot surrounded by clear skin that is in turn ringed by an expanding red rash (looks like a bull’s-eye)
  • Appears an average of 1 to 2 weeks (range = 3 to 30 days) after disease transmission
  • Has an average diameter of 5 to 6 inches
  • (range = 2 inches to 2 feet)
  • Persists for about 3 to 5 weeks
  • May or may not be warm to the touch
  • Is usually not painful or itchy

Around the time the rash appears, other symptoms such as joint pains, chills, fever, and fatigue are common. These symptoms may be brief, only to recur as a broader spectrum of symptoms as the disease progresses.

As the Lyme Disease spirochete continues spreading through the body, a number of other symptoms including severe fatigue, a stiff, aching neck, and peripheral nervous system involvement such as tingling or numbness in the extremities or facial paralysis can occur.

The more severe, potentially debilitating symptoms of later-stage Lyme Disease may occur weeks, months, or, in a few cases, years after a tick bite. These can include severe headaches, painful arthritis and swelling of joints, cardiac abnormalities, and central nervous system involvement leading to mental disorders.

 

How is Lyme Disease treated?

Most Lyme disease is curable with antibiotics, particularly when the infection is diagnosed and treated early.  Later stages might require longer-term, intravenous antibiotics.

 

Be sure to protect yourself  and cover up this summer! For more information visit our Pinterest Lyme Disease board where we will be pinning Lyme Disease information all summer long at https://www.pinterest.com/shepardmedicals/lyme-disease/ or tweet your questions to us @ShepardMedical.

 

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Shepard Medical Products has been an industry leader in the field of Infection Protection for the medical and food industries since 1986. Throughout the company’s history, Shepard has enjoyed progressive, steady growth by providing the highest quality, infection control solutions to our customers.

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