Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that features a skin rash, swollen joints and flu-like symptoms. It is mainly found in the eastern United States but has been reported in all 50 states with the highest incidence along the eastern seaboard, Wisconsin, Minnesota and northern California.
Lyme disease is caused by the transmission of the Borrelia burgdorferi spirochete from white-footed mice to the tick (also know the deer-tick). They infect up to 95% of the ticks that feed on them. Lyme disease cases have tripled in the United States over the last two decades. It’s the most commonly reported vector-borne disease in the North America. The disease now affects approximately 300,000 Americans each year.
Regardless of location, primary symptoms of Lyme disease are characterized by persistent fatigue, chronic musculoskeletal pain, and subjective cognitive slowing. Some authors refute the “chronic” label and instead attribute the symptoms to coincidence of the initial infection.
As stated above, you get the disease from the bite of an infected tick. Sometimes it is hard to know if you have Lyme disease because you may not have noticed a tick bite. Also, many of its symptoms are like those of other diseases. Symptoms may include
- A skin rash, often resembling a bulls-eye
- Muscle pain
- Stiff neck
- Swelling of knees and other large joints
In the early stages, doctors look at your symptoms and medical history to figure out whether you have Lyme disease. In the later stages of the disease, lab tests can confirm whether you have it.
Antibiotics usually cure early stage Lyme disease. The bottom line, don’t underestimate Lyme Disease, if left untreated, the disease can cause problems with the joints, heart and nervous system.
Reports and studies out of New York state suggest last summer (2016), there has been a surge in the mice population. “There was evidence of mice everywhere. They had completely taken over,” says Keesing, an ecologist at Bard College. To exacerbate the matter, this winter has been abnormally warmer. Meaning the surge will continue.
This translate to a very bad year for the spread of Lyme disease. People will need to be vigilant. Protect yourself, your family and your pets.
- Dress Defensively. When you venture into areas where ticks might be waiting, dress for the occasion. Wear a hat and light-colored clothing (to help you see ticks before they find skin), and tuck your shirt into your pants and your pants into your socks.
- Checks yourself and others. Ticks must feed for 36 to 48 hours in order to transmit Lyme disease, so regularly checking yourself for ticks after you’ve been in wooded areas is a hugely effective preventive measure. Look for tiny and foreign dark dots, especially in moist body creases in the armpits, groin, hairline, scalp, waistband and the backs of your knees. Let someone else check you, if possible, because it’s difficult to check your own scalp and backside. Because of their tiny size, it is entirely possible to carry a nymph on your body long enough for it to feed and then drop off without you ever knowing you were bitten, so be sure to check often and carefully. Check yourself before bed, too.
- Maintain Mowed Buffer Zones. Ticks sometimes do wander onto the edges of lawns, but they are most likely to find you as you walk through tall grass, work around low shrubbery, or hang out in shady, mulched areas. Open lawn makes poor tick habitat, so a swath of lawn makes a good buffer zone between your house and the wilder habitats preferred by ticks.
- Perfume Your Clothing. If you must venture into tick territory often, pump up the deterrent properties of your pants. Commercially made plant-based pesticides that deter ticks are made with lemon eucalyptus oil (available in Repel products as well as Cutter Lemon Eucalyptus Spray). It’s fragrant stuff, so you may prefer heavily treating your pants and socks better than slathering it on your skin.
- Track Any Attacks. If you do find an attached tick, remove it carefully with tweezers, forceps, or a tick removal tool, wipe the bite with an antiseptic, and circle it with a permanent marker. Check the bite location every few days for a rash or other unusual inflammation, and promptly seek medical attention if you see or experience any symptoms of Lyme disease. The disease is curable if treated in its early stages, but if you wait too long, you could be in for a long and difficult recovery.