Did you know there are 300,000 new cases of Lyme disease each year?
Did you know children from Lyme, Connecticut developed rheumatoid arthritis after seeing a rash where a tick bite occurred?
Did you know the Mid-Atlantic States are one of the most concentrated areas for Lyme disease?
Did you know that the state of Pennsylvania leads with about 74,000 new cases of Lyme disease each year?
Did you know the telltale rash shows up in only about 70% of the cases?
Did you know if left untreated, Lyme disease causes damage to joints, nervous system and the heart?
Did you know ages 5 to 9 year old boys are more likely to contract the disease?
Do you know what symptoms to look for?
Lyme disease (an infectious disease growing quickly throughout North America and Europe) is transmitted from the female bite of the blacklegged tick Ixodes scapularis as she takes a blood meal before laying her eggs. She typically lays her eggs between Memorial Day and the end of July. Young boys ages 5 to 9 are most susceptible as they play along wooded edges where the female tick lays in wait. Despite the name, deer tick, the tick actual becomes infected with the bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, when the tick’s larval stage consumes a blood meal to grow. This occurs when the larvae attaches itself to an infective rodent such as a white-footed mouse, shrew, mole, chipmunk or other rodent. Deer and horses become carriers of the mating ticks and may provide the blood meal before egg laying. The female tick dies off after she lays her eggs. Lyme disease is not transmitted by other ticks such as “dog tick” or the “wood tick”.
Although difficult to see as the tick is about the size of a pin-head, infection is usually accompanied by flu-like symptoms including fever, chills, joint pain, stiff neck, muscle aches, headaches and fatigue. In about 70% of cases, a rash (sometimes looking like a bull’s eye) will develop at the bite site and range in size from that of a dime to covering an individual’s entire back. If a rash is not present, then blood tests are used to look for antibodies fighting the infection. The two common blood test are ELISA and Western blot which the doctor may order three to four weeks after the suspected start of infection. This gives the body time to produce enough antibodies to be detectable.
A few years ago, I had a very personal experience with a small brown spot on my forearm. I thought it was a scab at first but could not remember the cause. As I picked at it further, I realized it was a tiny tick. If I had taken the time and perhaps a magnifying glass, then I might have identified it as a blacklegged tick as the unfed female has the unique orange-red colored body. As it was, I removed the tick with a pair of tweezers pulling up from and as close to the skin as possible, then applied an antiseptic to prevent infection. Afterward, I called my doctor who prescribed doxycycline. I took the antibiotic for two weeks as a precautionary. I’m not sure how long the tick had been there, but believed it had not been there for very long. It’s said that a tick would have to be feeding for three to four days before infecting a person with Lyme disease. This gives a person ample time to inspect their body for ticks. Even your pets can carry these ticks into the home. The vet said our dog, Keiko, tested positive for Lyme disease.
If left untreated, Lyme disease can cause painful and swollen joints especially with the knees, temporary paralysis of facial muscles, poor coordination, change in mood, concentration problems, dizziness, heart palpitations and sleep issues.
Some prevailing myths about Lyme disease are: that it is not curable, that tests are not able to detect the infection after several years and that every tick bite results in Lyme disease. Dr. Andrew Nowalk, assistant professor of pediatrics at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburg of UPMC and University of Pittsburg School of Medicine, counters these myths with: the disease can be cured, the test are “actually quite good at detecting people who’ve been infected for some time” and “it’s actually a really small minority of tick bites that might transmit Lyme.”
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Click here to learn of more reasons to watch for ticks.
“Your Kid Could Have Lyme Disease And You Might Not Even Know It” Click here to learn more.
For my next post, we will look at the Chronic Lyme Disease Controversy
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