Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne disease in the United States and the 5th most common disease reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Read on to learn more about how Lyme disease is spread from a tick bite and what to do to keep yourself safe.
Lyme disease is a vector-borne disease, meaning that it is carried from one host to another by an athropod that feeds on blood. This includes ticks and mosquitoes. It is caused by the spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi.
Lyme disease is transmitted by the black-legged deer tick. The tick must be attached and feeding for at least 36-48 hours for the infection with Lyme disease to occur, but other infections are possible in a shorter period of time. People who are infected with Lyme disease can also be infected with other tick-borne diseases from the same bite. This includes conditions such as Ehrlichiosis and Babesiosis.
The vast majority of cases occur during the warm spring and summer months, with 94 percent of all cases occurring in 12 states:
Cases also occur frequently in the northern, forested region of California.
There are three specific stages of Lyme disease;
Lyme disease is caused exclusively by a bite from an infected deer tick. The ticks live in wooded and brushy areas and they find their way to their human hosts when the humans walk through their habitats. The ticks then migrate to the warm areas of the body to feed.
Not everyone who is bitten by a tick will get Lyme disease, but there is no way to determine who will get infected and who won't, so it's best to be cautious with every bite.
There are some risk factors associated with Lyme disease from a tick bite:
The symptoms associated with Lyme disease vary based upon the stage of the infection. In the beginning it can be easy to mistake the symptoms as something as simple as the flu.
In stage one, symptoms may come and go, and include:
Erythema Migrans: This bull's eye shaped rash occurs in 80 percent of cases of Lyme disease. It will spread outward from the bite and can vary in size between 4-20 inches.
Symptoms of stage two include:
Symptoms of stage three include:
Treatment of Lyme disease is usually fairly simple. In most cases, prevention is the best treatment. If you are going into an area known to be inhabited by ticks, you should:
If someone is bitten by a tick, he can start preventative antibiotics immediately to prevent an infection from occurring.
The most common antibiotic used in treating and preventing a Lyme disease infection is doxycycline. However some people can't take this antibiotic, so amoxicillin or cefuroxime can be used, but the dosage will need to be higher and the course of treatment will be longer.
Other treatment options will depend upon the severity of the infection. For instance, cardiac problems may be treated separately from the infection itself.
Over time, if left untreated, symptoms can become severe and lead to problems with the heart, neurological system, muscles and joints. There is a phenomenon called post-Lyme disease syndrome. The cause is unknown, but the symptoms can still interfere with everyday life.
Treating Lyme disease early is essential for full recovery. So for those who notice a tick bite on their body, they should remove the tick immediately and seek medical attention to ensure that they don't develop Lyme disease.