Lyme disease is a worldwide infectious disease and has been reported in all fifty states. An estimated 300,000 people become infected with Lyme disease per year. Within the United States, tick carrying Lyme disease is most prevalent in the Northeastern states, including Pennsylvania. Ticks infected with the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi cause the disease and are most active from April to September, which means spring and summer are the prime times for infection. But with the right steps and regular tick checks, you can prevent Lyme disease. It’s also good to know that most cases can be treated and cured. Protecting yourself and your family starts with informing yourself about Lyme and its tiny vector, the tick.
Here is everything you need to know about Lyme disease and ticks:
Lyme disease is only acquired through a tick bite. The CDC asserts that Lyme disease has never been transmitted from person to person, or from a pet. Be aware, however, that pets (especially dogs) can bring ticks into your home and yard, so it is important to check them regularly. Especially after visiting an area you know is infected by ticks.
There about 850 tick species, but not all of them carry Lyme disease. Blacklegged ticks, commonly known as deer ticks, are the ones you need to avoid. Deer ticks spread Lyme disease in Northeastern, mid-Atlantic, and north-central Midwest states, while Western black-legged ticks transmit infection on the Pacific Coast. According to CDC data, in 20154, 95% of confirmed Lyme disease cases were reported from 14 East Coast states, including Pennsylvania.
Removing a tick as soon as possible can help reduce the risk of infection. To remove a tick all you need is a pair of fine-tipped tweezers. The CDC recommends that you pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.
In most cases, it takes 36 to 48 hours for an infected tick to transmit Lyme disease after it attaches itself to you. Most humans are infected through the bites of immature ticks called nymphs. Nymphs measure less than 2 millimeters (mm) in size. In general, adult ticks are approximately the size of a sesame seed and nymphal ticks are approximately the size of a poppy seed. Because they’re so small, nymphs can go unnoticed in difficult-to-see areas such as the scalp, armpits, and groin.
There used to be a Lyme disease vaccine, but it was discontinued in 2002. The vaccine manufacturer said demand was insufficient, so production stopped. Because the protection given by the vaccine lessens over time, even people who received the vaccine in 2002 are no longer immune to Lyme disease. Lyme disease vaccines are available for dogs, however, check with your vet about this preventative measure for your pet.
The most common symptom of Lyme disease is a rash that looks like a bull’s eye. The CDC says the average time for the rash to show up is one week. As the rash spreads, parts of it might clear up, which is how the bull’s eye becomes evident. But not all patients notice the rash, in fact, fewer than 50% of people infected get the bull’s eye rash. Other Lyme disease symptoms can appear from several days to even months after the bite. Some are flu-like: fatigue, headache, joint swelling, and dizziness. According to the CDC, other symptoms can include arthritis, irregular heartbeat, nerve pain, and memory problems.
Take precautions to prevent Lyme disease.
If you’re going outdoors in a shady grassland or densely wooded area, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease recommends wearing light-colored long-sleeved pants and shirts to make ticks easier to spot. Tuck your pants into your socks, and wear a long-sleeve shirt and a hat. Spray clothing with permethrin repellent, and spray DEET directly on your skin. Check the CDC’s repellent information page to find out which formulations are okay to spray directly on your skin. Every time you come indoors after spending time outside, scan your body and those around you for ticks. Don’t forget to check your hair, your clothing, and your back, as these are the areas where deer ticks tend to latch on.
At home, keep your lawn neatly mowed to reduce the risk of picking up ticks. Don’t spend time near damp wood piles, and if you have pets, check their fur thoroughly every time you let them in. Our Tick Shield program was developed specifically to eliminate them within your property. In a process similar to that described for Mosquito Shield, our flea and tick formula is applied to all turd, wood lines, and landscape beds around your property to effectively kill fleas and ticks within those areas.