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Lyme Disease: What you Need to Know

separator 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 August.

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 rash.

Click here for images of the deer tick:

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 disease?
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 Prevention.
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