What is Lyme Disease? Things you should know
CNN) Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in the United States and may become more common with the climate crisis.
Lyme Disease Symptoms?
Fever, chills, body pain, swollen lymph nodes, stiff neck, difficulty breathing, headache, fatigue and rash are typical symptoms of Lyme disease.
When bitten by a tick, you usually see a small red bump that can look like a mosquito bite. But three to 30 days later, when a rash appears and extends from this red area and looks a little like a porthole, it’s a sign that you may be suffering from Lyme disease.
Doctors will call this rash erythema migrans. Often it will slowly expand. It’s usually not itchy or painful, but the area can feel a little warm when touched.
Between 70% and 80% of people with Lyme disease develop this rash, and some patients develop it in more than one part of their body.
Untreated, the infection can spread to the joints, heart, and nervous system, according to the disease control and prevention centers. This can lead to joint pain and swelling.
After a few weeks to months, patients may also experience swelling of the membranes surrounding the brain, temporary paralysis of one side of the face, and “brain fog”: forgetfulness or confusion.
How do you get Lyme disease?
Lyme disease comes from four main types of bacteria. In the U.S., it is Borrelia burgdorferi and Borrelia mayonii that cause the disease, according to the Mayo Clinic.
An infected tick transmits the bacteria when it bites. In the United States, there are several types of ticks that transmit the bacteria that cause Lyme disease, including black-legged ticks, which are also known as deer ticks.
Most people get Lyme disease in the spring and summer months. That’s when the immature ticks called nymphs eat most actively, and that’s when most people are out and about walking through grass and the heavily forested areas where the beetles like to hang around.
What to do if you get bitten?
Ticks can be tiny: deer ticks can be as small as a pinhead. So look for them carefully. Removing a tick within 24 hours reduces the risk of developing Lyme disease because it takes some time for the bacteria to transfer from the tick to the host. The longer the tick sticks to the body, the more likely an infection is. Pull the tick carefully and evenly with tweezers and grasp it by the mouth or neck. Then place an antiseptic on the infected area. In most cases, a tick must be attached to the skin for 36 to 48 hours. If you get bitten and develop symptoms, call your doctor immediately. Even if your symptoms go away, you should see a doctor.
The standard treatment for early Lyme disease is oral antibiotics. A 14- to 21-day course is usually recommended, but some studies suggest that a 10- to 14-day course is just as effective, according to the Mayo Clinic.
If the central nervous system is affected by the disease, intravenous antibiotics can be administered for 14 to 28 days. This treatment eliminates the infection, but it may take more time to recover from the symptoms. The side effects of this treatment may include a lower white blood cell count, diarrhea, or infection with other organisms that are resistant to antibiotics that are not related to Lyme disease.
According to the Mayo Clinic, people who receive antibiotics at the beginning of the disease generally recover completely. Patients who are treated later in the course of the infection may take longer to respond to treatment.
Most people recover completely regardless of when they get help, but around 20% experience persistent symptoms and some can be disabling.
How to Prevent Lyme Disease ?
The CDC recommends wearing insect repellents with a DEET concentration of at least 20% and avoiding forest areas with tall grass, where ticks are most common.
Check for ticks daily and shower frequently if you spend a lot of time outdoors. A washcloth can help remove non-stick ticks.
When you’re outside, cover up. Wear long sleeves, pants, and hats when you walk or hike in the forest.
Your dogs and cats can also take the pests inside. Check them and secure your garden against ticks. Remove the leaves and brush the areas where ticks want to hide. Keep your lawn mowed.
How common is it?
Each year, state health departments send reports to the CDC of approximately 30,000 cases in which the disease is being followed. The problem is probably much worse. National surveillance data indicate that more than 300,000 Americans develop Lyme disease each year.
The climate crisis, which brings warmer temperatures and conditions, is likely to make more people sick. The beetles love this climate, and scientists predict that new colonies of ticks will appear in areas of the country where the ticks were not at home.
It is what members of Congress have described as a “serious and growing public health threat”. According to a 2018 Congress report, the number of cases of Lyme disease has doubled since 2004.
More facts about ticks:
These arachnids cannot fly or jump, but are waiting for a host – whether mammal, bird, reptile or amphibian – to feed on the tips of the grasses and shrubs. They cling to leaves and grass with their lower legs, a position known as “quests”.
When the landlord comes by, the tick climbs on and finds a place to bite.
In addition to Lyme disease, at least 20 known diseases can be caused by tick bites.