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Lyme Disease

By Mark Afanasyev


Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Highlights:

  • Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne disease in the United States, spread by black-legged ticks

  • The first noticeable symptom is a rash, followed by a wide range of afflictions.

  • There is currently no available vaccine against Lyme disease

Introduction


With summer comes many reasons to explore the wilderness. Although the great outdoors could quickly dispel your fears of getting sick, there are unfortunately dangers hidden amid the flora and fauna. Bears, snakes, and mountain lions are examples of these chief concerns. However, a more probable threat comes from an arachnid about 3 millimeters in length. Blacklegged ticks, also known as Deer ticks, often reside on grass, shrubbery, and trees. They latch onto mammals that happen to pass them by. Feeding on the blood of their hosts, ticks can transmit the bacteria responsible for Lyme disease to humans. Ticks are responsible for about 476,000 cases of Lyme disease annually.

Source: Mark Afanasyev - While picking wild blueberries, I did not feel the tick attach itself to my palm.

Transmission and Symptoms


In the United States, Lyme disease is caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi Borrelia mayonii. The mode of transmission is through black-legged ticks. It is the most common vector-borne disease in the United States, resulting in fever, fatigue, and a rash. The ticks are most active from late spring to early fall, attaching themselves to mammals. They can attach themselves to any part of the human body, but are more commonly found on obscured parts of the body, such as the groin, armpits, and scalp. After about 3 days, a circular rash (erythema migrans) with a bull's-eye pattern begins to form. Other early symptoms include chills, fatigue, low grade fever, and neck stiffness. Left untreated, more serious complications can ensue. In the following weeks and months, individuals can be afflicted by neurological and rheumatological symptoms such as facial palsy, heart palpitations, arthritis, and joint pain.


Treatments


It is unlikely to acquire Lyme disease if the tick has been attached for less than 36 to 48 hours. Once a tick has been found on the skin, remove it carefully with tweezers. When removing, make sure that no portions of the tick remain. If parts break off during removal, attempt removal with tweezers. After proper removal, wash the area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap with water. If symptoms appear after a bite, make sure to contact your doctor. Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics, and these treatments are more effective the earlier they are put into use. Ultimately, more research is required in order to ascertain more effective treatment options against this disease.


Prevention


Although there is no currently available vaccine against Lyme disease, prevention is ultimately the best medicine. Before wandering out into areas where ticks are prevalent, such as woody or grassy areas, cover up as much bare skin as possible. Using insect repellent with a 20% or higher concentration of DEET on the skin can also deter ticks from latching on. Lastly, make sure to frequently check your clothes and your body for a tick. When a tick is located, promptly and carefully remove the tick with tweezers. With these precautions, you should be safe from acquiring Lyme disease and more confident when going outdoors.


References

https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/index.html

https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/prev/vaccine.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK431066/

https://www.chesapeakebay.net/discover/field-guide/entry/deer_tick


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