Lyme Disease: What you Need to Know
Lyme disease is transmitted to humans by deer ticks that are infected with
the disease. The ticks contract the infection when they feed on mammals that are
infected with a bacterium called Borrelia burgdorfer.
Then these infected ticks feed on “hosts,” such as dogs, cats and humans.
They insert their mouths into the skin of the host and take in blood. Lyme
disease infection is most likely to occur when an infected tick feeds on its
host for two or more days. The disease occurs most often from May through
What are the symptoms?
Days or weeks after being bitten by an infected tick, about 80 percent of the
people who get Lyme disease exhibit a slowly expanding rash that looks like
bull’s eye. They typically also experience fatigue, fever, headache, stiff
neck, muscle aches and joint pain. If these people don’t get treatment early,
there’s a good chance that weeks or months later, they’ll develop additional
symptoms, such as arthritis, episodes of pain and swelling in the large joints,
inflammation of the motor and sensory nerves, inflammation of the brain and in
rare cases, problems with the heart.
It’s important to remember that about 20 percent of people who contract
Lyme disease do not ever develop the bull’s eye rash. If you have symptoms of
Lyme, it’s a good idea to see your doctor about them, even if you never had a
Click here for images of the deer tick: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/lyme/4ticks_cm.htm
How is Lyme treated?
In the early stages, Lyme disease is treated for 3 to 4 weeks with doxycycline
or amoxicillin. If the disease has reached the later stages, intravenous
antibiotic treatment (directly into the vein) may be necessary. In some cases,
treatment doesn’t work the first time and has to be repeated.
Currently, there is no vaccine available.
Are you at risk for getting Lyme
People who spend time in areas where ticks are common, such as grassy or wooded
places where white-tailed deer live, are at highest risk. Lyme disease occurs
most frequently in the northeastern states, but it also appears in areas in
other states as well. The disease is not passed on from one human to another.
How can you protect yourself?
When you go walking in risk-prone areas, wear long sleeves and tuck your pants
into your socks. Wear light-colored clothing so you can spot ticks easily. Check
yourself and your pet thoroughly for ticks when you get home.
You can also apply an insect repellant containing DEET to reduce the chance
that a tick will attach itself to you. Be sure to apply any repellant according
to EPA guidelines for children and adults. Additionally, you can apply
permethrin to your clothes, which can kill ticks on contact.
To remove a tick that has attached itself to you, use fine-tipped tweezers.
Do not use petroleum jelly, a match, nail polish or anything else. Grip as much
of the tick’s body as you can and pull it away from your skin. Apply
antiseptic to the area afterwards.
Centers for Disease Control and