What is Lyme Disease? Lyme disease is an infection, or illness, caused by the corkscrew-shaped bacterium (spirochete) Borrelia burgdorferi. The bacterium is transmitted from black legged ticks to white-footed mice, the white-tailed deer, other mammals, and birds to dogs, horses. Ticks feed by inserting their mouths into the skin of a host and slowly taking in blood. The bacterial transmission does not usually occur until the tick has been attached for at least 24 hours.
Is Lyme disease found in Maine? The greatest concentrations of Lyme disease cases are in the Northeast, the upper Midwest, and Pacific Northwest. In Maine, the greatest risk of contracting Lyme disease is during spring and summer months. June and July are the times that the nymphal ticks tend to feed and transmit the bacteria. Nymphal ticks are tiny (less than 2mm) and are not easily noticed on people. Adult ticks are often found in the late fall and can also transmit the bacteria. Because they are larger they are more likely to be found and removed.
Protecting yourself from Lyme disease: You can decrease the chances of being bitten by a tick by following these simple precautions:
- Avoid tick-infected areas (especially in May, June and July).
- Removing leaves, leaf litter, and clearing brush around houses and at the edges of lawns may reduce the number of ticks that transmit Lyme disease.
- Use flea and tick collars on your pets and brush them carefully after they have been outdoors. Check your animals for ticks.
- Wear light colored clothing so you can spot ticks more easily.
- Tuck pant legs into socks or boots and shirt into pants.
- Tape the area where pants and socks meet so that ticks cannot crawl under clothing
- Wear a long-sleeved shirt for added protection.
· Spray insect repellent containing a 20-30% concentration of DEET on clothes and on exposed skin other than the face, or treat clothes (especially pants, socks, and shoes) with permethrin, which kills ticks on contact. Insect repellents containing oil of lemon eucalyptus, IR3535, picaridin, or permethrin have also been found to be effective.
- Walk in the center of trails to avoid contact with overgrown grass and brush at trail edges.
· After being outdoors, remove your clothing and wash and dry it at high temperature; inspect your body carefully and again a few hours later. Pay attention to your head, hairline, nape of the neck, armpits, waist, between your legs, thighs, and behind your knees and remove attached ticks with tweezers, grasping the tick as close to the skin surface as possible and pulling straight back with a slow steady force; avoid crushing the tick’s body.
· If you remove a tick from yourself or your pet and would like to have it identified, place the tick in a small vial of rubbing alcohol inside a crushproof container. Ticks will not be tested to see if they carry Lyme. Check the CDC website for the most current address for testing.
Deer Ticks Vs. Dog Ticks –
¨ Dog ticks have either a white dot or shield behind the heat or white racing stripe down the back
¨ Generally deer ticks prefer the woods, dog ticks prefer open areas
Signs and symptoms of Lyme disease: Many of the symptoms of Lyme disease are similar to those of other diseases. The fever, muscle aches, and fatigue can be mistaken for the flu or infectious mononucleosis. Joint pain can be mistaken for other types of arthritis. Your doctor will diagnose Lyme disease based on history of possible exposure, symptoms, and by running blood tests that detect whether the patient has antibodies to the bacterium that causes Lyme.
The early stage of Lyme disease is usually marked by one or more of the following signs and symptoms: fatigue, chills and fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, swollen lymph nodes, and or a characteristic skin rash (called erythema migrans). It is a red circular patch that appears at the site of the tick bite usually within 3 days to 1 month after the bite of an infected tick. The patch then grows larger, and sometimes many patches appear. Common sites are the thighs, trunk, groin, and armpits. The center of the rash may clear as it enlarges, resulting in what looks like a “bull’s-eye.” The rash may be warm, but it is not usually painful.
Some symptoms of Lyme disease may not appear until weeks, months, or years after a tick bite. These symptoms may include, arthritis, nervous system problems such as numbness, pain, facial nerve paralysis and meningitis (fever, stiff neck, and severe headache), and/or irregularities of the heart rhythm (rare).
Treatment for Lymes disease and prognosis: The treatment is generally oral antibiotics. Patients treated in the early stages with antibiotics usually recover completely and quickly. Most patients who are treated in the later stages of the disease also respond well to antibiotics. Residual or recurrent symptoms are possible.
Vaccination: There is no longer a vaccine available for Lyme disease due to discontinued production of the vaccine. If you received the vaccine (Lyme disease) before 2002, you are probably no longer protected against the disease.
Other Tick-Borne Diseases
There are other tick-borne diseases such as Anaplasmosis and Babesia. Anaplasmosis
is carried by the deer and white-footed mouse. The incubation period is one to two weeks causing fever chills, and severe headache. General tiredness, muscle aching and joint aching are also common. One may experience a cough, intestinal upset and stiff neck although this does not tend to be as common. Treatment is very similar to the treatment for Lymes disease. Babesia microti is
another tick borne illness that occurs on the northeast coast of the US. The incubation period is one to three weeks after a tick bite and causes symptoms of fever, chills, sweats, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, and aching.