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With the warmer months upon us, most of us have thought of spending time outdoors with our families. Usually living the outdoor life means co-existing with a host of wildlife and insects, including mosquitoes and ticks. This month we will focus on ticks, and a disease that they can carry and transmit to humans – Lyme Disease.
Lyme Disease is an infection caused by the bacteria Borrelia Burgdorferi. This bacterium can be found in animals such as mice and deer. When a tick bites an infected animal and then later bites a human, Lyme disease can be transmitted.
If caught early, Lyme Disease can be treated with antibiotics. Often the first symptom of infection is a red, circular rash that appears within one to two weeks of infection. The rash often has a “bull’s eye” appearance, with a red dot in the middle and an expanding red ring. The rash can cause itching and may be hot to the touch. While the rash is considered a typical symptom of Lyme Disease, not everyone develops it. Along with a rash, flu-like symptoms may appear, such as muscle aches, tiredness, headache, and swollen lymph nodes. If the disease remains untreated these symptoms may go away on their own. In some people though, the disease spreads to other parts of their body. Symptoms of this stage usually appear several weeks after the tick bite, as well as in some people who never developed the bull’s eye rash. The person may begin to feel very unwell and tired, or may have a rash that develops on parts of the body other than where the tick bite occurred. If left untreated Lyme disease can affect the heart, the nervous system, can cause headaches and neck stiffness as well as swelling and pain in the large joints of the body. In the last stage of this disease, arthritis may develop and memory can be affected.
How to prevent getting Lyme Disease?
• When spending time outdoors in areas with brush and trees be sure to wear enclosed shoes or boots, long sleeved shirts, and long pants, tuck your pant legs into your shoes or boots to prevent ticks from crawling up your legs.
• Use an insect repellant containing 20% - 30% DEET
• Use light colored clothing in order to make ticks easier to see
• Keep long hair pulled back or wear a hat for protection
• Don’t sit on the ground outside
• Check yourself and your pets for ticks regularly, both inside and outside your house
• Wash your clothes and hair after leaving areas where ticks can be found
If you suspect that you or a loved one may have Lyme Disease, contact your health care provider immediately