Each year, tens of thousands of cases of Lyme disease are reported, while countless others go unreported. These cases are concentrated mostly in the northeast and upper Midwest, where the bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, is abundant. According to the CDC, Lyme disease is the most commonly reported vector-borne illness in the United States, and spread to humans by the bite of a blacklegged tick, or deer tick, which is infected with the Lyme disease bacteria.
Early prevention and treatment is important when dealing with Lyme disease, as the symptoms get progressively worse and more serious as time goes on. Some common early symptoms include:
· Small bump/redness in the site of the bite
· Red, expanding rash called erythema migrans
· Fatigue, chills, fever, headache, muscle and joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes
Once someone has been diagnosed with Lyme disease, they are treated with the appropriate course of antibiotics. Unfortunately, in 10-20% of patients treated with antibiotics, symptoms of Lyme disease linger even after treatment. Although the cause of this is not known, post-Lyme syndrome may be caused by an autoimmune response, in which a person's immune system continues to respond, doing damage to the body’s tissues, even after the infection has been cleared.
Alternatively, if the infection goes untreated it can spread and lead to the following more severe symptoms like Bell’s palsy, severe headaches and neck stiffness, or heart palpitations and dizziness. So if hiking in the woods, or spending time outdoors avoid wooded and bushy areas where ticks are more likely to be. You should always do a full body check soon after coming indoors to find any ticks which may be on your body. If you do find a tick, it can easily be removed by using fine-tipped tweezers and disposed of in a sealed bag, or container.
Here are the best ways to reduce your risk and prevent the disease:
· Know where to expect ticks. Blacklegged ticks (deer ticks) live in moist and humid environments in wooded and grassy areas.
· Use DEET repellent and wear protective clothing.
· Check yourself for ticks daily when living in or travelling to areas where ticks are prevalent.
· If you have a tick on you, remove it quickly. Removing it within 24 hours significantly reduces your risk for Lyme disease.
· Know the right way to remove ticks. Use tweezers to slowly pull out the tick. It’s important to remove the entire body because sometimes the tick’s head can latch on to your skin which still harbors the disease.
· Check your pets for ticks.
· Be aware of any rashes or fevers you develop during tick season.
· Make sure your yard is tick-safe by using a chemical control agent or keeping deer away.