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Lyme & Other Tick-Borne Diseases

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What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria transmitted by the deer tick (Ixodes scapularis). Lyme disease may cause symptoms affecting the skin, nervous system, heart and/or joints of an individual. Counties in New York State that border the Hudson River have higher numbers of cases than the western part of the state. 

About Deer Ticks...

These ticks are very dark reddish-brown in color and considerably smaller than dog ticks. Nymphs are about the size of a poppy seed and adults are about the size of a sesame seed. Adults may feed in fall or in warm weather, in winter and early spring. They have a two-year life cycle and overwinter in the soil or under leaf litter. Nymphs are active from May through September and are thought to be responsible for about 80% of all Lyme disease cases.

Ticks can be found in any outdoor location with vegetation, even your backyard. A pet can also carry them into your home. Ticks do not fly, jump or actively pursue people as in the case of mosquitoes and other insects. Instead, they attach themselves to people or pets brushing against them in the grass or shrubbery.

Who gets Lyme Disease

Lyme disease can affect people of any age. People who spend time in grassy or wooded environments are at an increased risk of exposure. The chances of being bitten by a deer tick are greater when ticks are most active. Deer ticks in the nymphal stage are active from mid-May to mid-August and are about the size of poppy seeds. Adult ticks, which are approximately the size of sesame seeds, are most active in mid to late fall, however, ticks can be active anytime temperatures are above freezing.

Not all deer ticks are infected with the bacteria that cause Lyme disease. Ticks can become infected if they feed on small animals that are infected. The disease can be spread when a tick infected with the bacteria bites a person and stays attached for a period of time. 

In the mid-Hudson Valley counties, the deer tick can now tran
smit two other diseases: the first is Anaplasmosis (one of the forms of Ehrlichiosis) and the second is Babesiosis.  Anaplasmosis is caused by a bacteria.  

What are the symptoms of Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis, and Babesiosis? 

Lyme Disease:
In 60%-80% of the cases, a large, reddish rash about 2 inches in diameter appears and expands, usually (but not always) around or near the site of the bite. Sometimes, multiple rash sites appear. The early stage of Lyme disease is usually marked by one or more of the following symptoms and signs: chills and fever, headache, fatigue, stiff neck, muscle and/or joint pain, and swollen lymph nodes. If untreated, complications from late Lyme disease, such as arthritis, meningitis, facial palsy or heart abnormalities, may occur within a few weeks to months. These later symptoms may develop in people who did not have early symptoms or did not recognize them. Swelling and pain in the large joints may recur over many years.

The symptoms of Anaplasmosis are: fever, chills, headache, muscle pain, fatigue, nausea or lack of appetite, and sometimes cough, stiff neck, confusion, or rash.  This disease also causes abnormalities in lab chemistries and blood counts.  It seems to strike older people especially hard.  

The symptoms of Babesiosis are: fever, chills, sweats, fatigue, joint and muscle aches, nausea, and dark urine.  Again, lab chemistries and blood counts are affected.  Not all infected people get symptoms, but some can get severely ill.  This disease is caused by a parasite that infects red blood cells.

When do symptoms appear? 

Lyme Disease:
Early symptoms may develop a week to a month after the tick bite. Past infection does with Lyme disease does not make a person immune to the disease.
Symptoms generally show up within 2 weeks.

Symptoms may come in 3 weeks.

If you have any symptoms of any of these illnesses, you should seek the advice of a healthcare provider about treatment.

What are the treatments for these diseases? 
Current therapy includes the use of such antibiotics as amoxicillin, doxycycline and ceftriaxone. Duration of therapy varies, usually 2-4 weeks. Prognosis is improved with prompt diagnosis and appropriate, early treatment.

The same medications that works for Lyme Disease also works for Anaplasmosis, and is generally given for 2 weeks.

Babesiosis requires different treatment, involving 2 antibiotics given simultaneously for 7 to 10 days.

When in tick-infested habitat special precautions to prevent tick bites should be taken, such as:
  • Wearing light-colored clothing (for easy tick discovery)
  • Wearing long pants tucked into socks and long sleeves to protect bare arms. Do not go barefoot or in sandals 
  • Consider the use of repellents like DEET products on exposed skin (follow instructions carefully to protect your health)
  • Consider pretreating clothing and shoes with permethrin; these need to be sprayed and air-dried before wearing (follow instructions carefully) 
  • Brush off any ticks on clothing before skin attachment occurs
  • Check your children and yourself frequently (every 2-3 hours) when outdoors. A complete check should be done after undressing at home, with careful attention paid to the areas of the groin, waistline, underarms, neck and scalp
  • You should inspect your pets when they come in from the outside to make sure they are tick free. Also, you may use tick repellents recommended by your veterinarian on your pets
  • Put all clothing into hot dryer 15 minutes before putting in the washing machine to kill ticks
  • Showering when coming in from outside to check for ticks

I've been bitten by a tick, now what?

Don't panic! The quicker the tick is found and removed properly, the less risk you have of getting infected if the tick does carry disease.  

Remove the tick promptly and properly: 
  • Using tweezers, grasp the tick's mouthparts as close to the skin as possible and gently pull the tick in a steady, upward motion.
  • DO NOT touch the tick with your bare hands.
  • DO NOT squeeze the tick.
  • DO NOT put alcohol, nail polish remover or Vaseline on the tick.
  • DO NOT use a hot match or cigarette butt.
...These methods do not work and only increase the likelihood the tick will transmit infectious bacteria to you.

  • After removing the tick, thoroughly disinfect the bite site and wash hands. 
  • See or call a doctor if there are concerns about incomplete tick removal. 
  • Watch yourself for rash or other symptoms for the next month, and contact your health care provider if any develop. 

Mark the date and place of the bite and watch yourself for any tick-borne disease symptoms for the next month. Monitor the site of the bite for the appearance of a rash beginning 3 to 30 days after the bite.  The Lyme rash can appear anywhere, but it expands and can get quite large: it will get at lease the size of your fist (2 and a half inches).  Your medical provider must see the rash to make a diagnosis.  Early lab tests may not help because it takes your body a couple of weeks to produce the antibodies measured.  (Rashes the size of a quarter are usually a local reaction to the bit itself).

Learn about other early symptoms of Lyme disease and watch to see if they appear in the same time frame.

If a rash or other early symptoms develop, see your health care provider as soon as possible.

                      Sizes of the Deer Tick (from the CDC)


Lyme Disease: One Man's Experience (from the CDC)

Proper Tick Removal

Erythema migrans (EM) or "bull's-eye" rash 
(image from the CDC)

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Unknown user,
Jan 6, 2014, 12:03 PM
Victoria McGahan,
Mar 5, 2018, 9:35 AM