Lyme disease is caused by bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi (B burgdorferi). Blacklegged ticks and other species of ticks can carry these bacteria. The ticks pick up the bacteria when they bite mice or deer that are infected with B burgdorferi. You can get the disease if you are bitten by an infected tick.
Lyme disease was first reported in the United States in 1977 in the town of Old Lyme, Connecticut. The same disease occurs in many parts of Europe and Asia. In the United States, most Lyme disease infections occur in the following areas:
· Northeastern states, from Virginia to Maine
· North-central states, mostly in Wisconsin and Minnesota
· West Coast, mainly in the northwest
There are three stages of Lyme disease.
· Stage 1 is called early localized Lyme disease. The bacteria have not yet spread throughout the body.
· Stage 2 is called early disseminated Lyme disease. The bacteria have begun to spread throughout the body.
· Stage 3 is called late disseminated Lyme disease. The bacteria have spread throughout the body.
Important facts about tick bites and Lyme disease:
· A tick must be attached to your body for 24 to 36 hours to spread the bacteria to your blood.
· Blacklegged ticks can be so small that they are almost impossible to see. Many people with Lyme disease never even see or feel a tick on their body.
· Most people who are bitten by a tick do not get Lyme disease.
Original source: http://www.clinicaladvisor.com/infectious-diseases-information-center/cdc-releases-tips-for-preventing-lyme-disease-and-tick-bites/article/655447/ and http://pennstatehershey.adam.com/content.aspx?productId=117&pid=1&gid=001319
To prevent against getting a tick bite, the CDC recommends the following:
· Avoid high grass and leaf litter and walk in the center of hiking trails.
· Use repellent that contains 20% or more DEET, picaridin, or IR3535 on exposed skin.
· Use products that contain permethrin to treat clothing and gear, including boots, pants, socks, and tents, or look for clothing pretreated with permethrin.
· Wear light-colored clothing so that if ticks land on you, they can be spotted and removed.
· Wear long sleeves and long pants with pant legs tucked into your socks.
· Treat dogs for ticks using tick collars, sprays, shampoos, or monthly “top spot” medications.
· Bathe or shower after coming indoors to wash off and easily find any crawling ticks.
· Conduct a full-body tick check using hand-held or full-length mirror. Parents should also help children check thoroughly for ticks. Remove any ticks right away.
· Dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing.
How to Remove a Tick
If a tick is attached to you, follow these steps to remove it:
· Grasp the tick close to its head or mouth with tweezers. DO NOT use your bare fingers. If needed, use a tissue or paper towel.
· Pull it straight out with a slow and steady motion. Avoid squeezing or crushing the tick. Be careful not to leave the head embedded in the skin.
· Clean the area thoroughly with soap and water. Also wash your hands thoroughly.
· Save the tick in a jar.
· Watch carefully for the next week or two for signs of Lyme disease.
· If all parts of the tick cannot be removed, get medical help. Bring the tick in the jar to your doctor
Localized Early Stage
Symptoms of early localized Lyme disease (stage 1) begin days or weeks after infection. A red rash appears within a few weeks of a tick bite, starting as a small red spot at the site of the bite. The spot gets bigger over time, making a circle or oval and sometimes looking like a bull’s eye. Often there is a clear area in the center. The rash can range in size from that of a dime to the entire width of a person’s back, this rash is called erythema migrans. Without treatment, it can last 4 weeks or longer. As the infection spreads, rashes can show up at different places on the body. You may also have flu-like symptoms that include:
- Fever and chills
- General ill feeling
- Joint pain
- Muscle pain
- Stiff neck
Symptoms may come and go. Untreated, the bacteria can spread to the brain, heart, and joints.
Early Disseminated Stage
Symptoms of early disseminated Lyme disease (stage 2) may occur weeks to months after the tick bite, and may include:
- Numbness or pain in the nerve area
- Pain and swelling in the large joints, such as the knees
- Heart problems, such as skipped heartbeats (palpitations), lightheadedness, fainting, chest pain, and shortness of breath, which may develop in fewer than 10% of people with Lyme disease. Symptoms may show up several weeks after infection and last a few days or weeks.
- Neurological symptoms, such as a stiff neck and severe headache (may indicate meningitis), temporary paralysis of muscles in the face (Bell’s palsy), numbness, pain or weakness in the limbs, or poor motor coordination.
Symptoms of late disseminated Lyme disease (stage 3) can occur months or years after the infection. The most common symptoms are muscle and joint pain. Other symptoms may include:
- Abnormal muscle movement
- Joint swelling
- Muscle weakness
- Speech problems
- Thinking (cognitive) problems
- Arthritis, 60% of people not treated with antibiotics develop recurring attacks of arthritis, most often in the knees, that last a few days to a few months. About 10 to 20% people who are not treated will develop chronic arthritis.
- Neurological problems, up to 5% of people who do not get treatment develop long-lasting problems, including numbness and tingling in hands or feet, shooting pains, and short-term memory problems.
- Sudden loss of hearing, which may occur among a subset of people with Lyme disease.