The Facts About Lyme Disease

Ticks

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection spread through the bite of blacklegged ticks infected with the Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium.  The typical indicators of Lyme disease are fever, headache, fatigue and a characteristic “bull’s-eye” skin rash.

Late spring/early summer is the highest-risk season for Lyme disease, but it should be noted that adult ticks are active year round and anytime the weather is above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. According to the CDC, approximately 95% of Lyme disease cases in the U.S. can be found in 14 states concentrated throughout the Northeast and Midwest including Maryland and Virginia.

If left untreated, the Lyme disease infection can spread to the nervous system, heart and joints; however, early detection and treatment can often result in full recovery.   Treatment generally consists of a few weeks on antibiotics.

 

To Prevent Tick Bites

  • Stick close to marked trails
  • Wear long sleeves and tightly woven clothing; tuck in shirts and pant legs.
  • Light colored gear will help easily spot ticks on clothing.
  • Avoid wooded, bushy areas, tall grass & un-cleared areas of the forest floor.
  • Don’t crawl or roll in leaves.
  • The CDC recommends applying insect repellants that contain 20-30% DEET, but use caution around the eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Check for ticks as soon as you return from the outdoors and shower, preferably, within two hours; ticks often attach to the scalp, underarm, navel and groin.

 

What to do After a Tick Bite

  • Tug gently but firmly with blunt tweezers near the “head” of the tick until it releases its hold on the skin.  This may take some time.
  • To lessen the chance of contact with the bacterium, try not to crush the tick’s body or handle the tick with bare fingers.
  • Swab the bite area thoroughly with an antiseptic to prevent infection and thoroughly wash the area as well as your hands with soap and water.
  • DO NOT use kerosene, Vaseline, fingernail polish, or a cigarette butt.
  • DO NOT squeeze the tick’s body with your fingers or tweezers.
  • Observe the bite site for any signs of an expanding red rash.

 

The incubation period from tick bite to rash can range anywhere from 3-30 days.  Approximately 20% of Lyme disease cases suffer flu-like symptoms but NO rash. If you suspect that your tick bite may be Lyme disease, make an appointment at your nearest MetroIPC office for evaluation and diagnosis as soon as possible.

 

Resources:

http://www.cdc.gov/lyme/index.html

http://www.webmd.com/rheumatoid-arthritis/arthritis-lyme-disease

http://www.lymemd.org