Lyme Disease

The First Known case of Lyme Disease
In 1975, a strange illness was reported in Lyme, Connecticut. The disease was originally known as Lyme arthritis since its symptoms are similar to those associated with chronic arthritis. Later, the disease was found to be caused by bacteria transmitted through the bite of a small tick, common to the area. The illness came to be known as Lyme Disease, and the tick is sometimes called the Lyme tick or deer tick.
About Lyme Ticks
Ticks, in general, look very much like spiders. They have eight legs, no wings and range in size from microscopic to small. Ticks live on or near the ground in grass, shrubs, leaves or wooded areas. Contrary to popular thought, ticks can not fly or jump. To move a great distance, a tick must grasp a person or animal as it brushes past. The tick will then crawl to a feeding spot. Ticks attach to their hosts through the implementation of specially adapted mouth parts called barbs. Once the tick has secured its position, it can begin to feed by sucking the host's blood. A tick can feed for up to four or five days, and then drop off when it is done feeding. Most often, the bite is not painful. Unless the tick is seen, it is frequently hard to tell when you are being bitten.
The Ixodes scapularis tick, commonly known as the deer tick, is the species of tick responsible for the spread of Lyme disease. It is important to note, however, that not all deer ticks transmit Lyme disease. Only those ticks that have been infected with the Lyme bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, can transmit the disease.
The Lyme tick is extremely small, particularly in its nymphal or larval stage. Even as an adult, the deer tick is still only about the size of a sesame seed (about 2-3 mm). An adult, female deer tick has a reddish-brown body, whereas the male has a dark brown body and is slightly smaller. As with other ticks, the deer tick becomes larger as it feeds.

Other ticks, such as the common dog tick, are also found in our area. The main difference between a deer tick and a dog tick is the size. An adult dog tick is usually larger than the adult deer tick (shown above). Also, the dog tick has a whitish colored area on its back (the entire back of the male and a small area behind the mouth parts of the female). In contrast, the back of the deer tick is a solid dark color.

Transmission of Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is not considered to be a communicable disease. It cannot be transmitted through person-to-person contact. People can only get Lyme disease through the bite of an infected deer tick. Deer ticks feed on many types of animals, including deer, raccoons, birds, dogs, mice and humans. The ticks become infected with the Lyme bacteria by feeding on infected white-footed mice. This Lyme bacteria can then be spread to other animals and humans when the newly infected tick feeds on them. Research has shown that it may take an infected tick as long as two days to transmit the bacteria that causes Lyme disease to its host.
Lyme disease is most prevalent in the warmer, summer months when ticks and people are more active. In colder months, ticks are much less active and tend to stay hidden. Lyme disease can be transmitted by ticks at other times of the year, especially if you live in a part of the country that is warm year round. Although Lyme disease can be contracted in many states , it is a particularly common problem in some of the northeastern states from Massachusetts to New Jersy, in the midwest in Wisconsin and Minnesota, and on the west coast in California.

Symptoms of Lyme Disease
People who are diagnosed with Lyme disease most frequently report the appearance of a red, skin rash as the first symptom they experience. Generally, the rash begins to expand, affecting a larger area. The center of the rash may clear as it enlarges resulting in a "bull's eye" appearance. The rash may also be warm or itchy. Occasionally, other rashes appear on other parts of the body. Rashes with various other descriptions have also been reported. In addition, a rash may never develop even though a person has been infected with the Lyme bacteria.
In the early stages of Lyme disease, a person may also experience flu-like symptoms (i.e., aching muscles and joints, tiredness, headaches, and fever). The individual may experience red eyes, swollen glands or a stiff neck. If the disease is left untreated, the person may develop more serious problems such as heart complications which may result in dizziness, weakness, or an irregular heartbeat. Lyme disease can also affect the nervous system, causing numbness of the extremities or difficulty when trying to concentrate. As the disease advances, the person may also experience pain and swelling of the joints. This may cause a normally active individual to slow down and keep him/her from enjoying favorite sports and physical activities.

Treatment of Lyme Disease
If Lyme disease is diagnosed in the early stages, the illness can be treated with oral antibiotics. However, if Lyme disease is allowed to advance to later stages, the antibiotics may have to be administered intravenously through injection, or the individual may have to be hospitalized for treatment.

Lyme Disease Prevention
It is in the summer months, when outdoor activities are common, that the Lyme tick is most prevalent. Taking the time to practice these simple precautions regularly can help avoid tick bites and Lyme disease.

Below is a list of some simple things that an individual can do to help reduce the risk of getting Lyme disease:

  • Wear light colored clothing so that ticks are easy to spot.
  • Wear long pants and tuck them into your socks when in the woods or grassy areas (so ticks cannot reach bare skin).
  • Spray insect repellent containing no more than 30% DEET on your skin and clothes before going outside.
  • Stay on paths or trails in the woods and try to avoid brushing against or walking in tall grass or plants.
  • Check yourself (and your friends) regularly for ticks when outside.
  • Ask someone to help you check your hair and neck for ticks when you return indoors (ticks have been known to hide there)!
  • Wash any repellent treated skin and clothes when returning indoors.
  • Report to any medical person or parent when you find a tick attached to your skin.
  • Check your pets over for ticks on a regular basis. Pets can get Lyme disease too. They can also carry the tick into the house.

    A Note About Repellents
    Insect repellents which contain the chemical DEET can be used on clothing as well as on bare skin, but should be used with caution. As with all insecticides, exposure to the skin should be kept minimal. It is recommended that you use a repellent containing no more than 30% DEET. If you are using a repellent on the skin directly, do not apply it onto broken skin or near the eyes, nose or mouth. You should never spray it directly onto your face. Instead, spray it onto your hands and then rub it carefully onto your face. Use only enough repellent to cover exposed skin, and avoid reapplying frequently. If you are using a spray repellent, make sure to apply it in a well ventilated area or outside. Follow the instructions on the label.
    Another product, whose active ingredient is permethrin, should be used only on clothing. Permethrin is actually a pesticide rather than a repellent. Products containing permethrin should be sprayed onto your clothes and allowed to dry before you wear them. Permethrin is available in an aresol spray by the name Permanone Tick Repellent. Remember to wash clothing and skin anytime a repellent or pesticide is used, when returning indoors.

Tick Checks and Removal
You should check yourself over for ticks frequently while outdoors, and again when returning indoors. If a tick is found attached to your skin, remove it following the procedures listed below:
l. Use fine point tweezers and grab the tick where its mouth parts enter the skin.
2. Pull the tick straight out with steady, even pressure until it releases its hold. The tick should not be squeezed or twisted.

3. Clean the bite with an antiseptic and keep an eye out for a rash or other symptoms to develop.
4. Put the tick in a jar with some alcohol for the doctor to examine in case symptoms develop. Write down the date and site of the bite as well.
Alcohol, nail polish remover, petroleum jelly, or matches should NEVER be used to force the tick out.