Lyme disease is caused by a spirochete called Borrelia burgdorferi that is carried by blacklegged ticks (vector) found on deer (reservoir host). The Center for Disease Control (CDC) tells us that more of these ticks are expected this summer due to reforestation and climate change across the country, including in Ohio. While the majority of reported cases are from the Northeast and Upper Midwest, other cases have been reported as far south as Florida. Adult blacklegged ticks (Ixodes scapularis) are the size of an apple seed so they are visible to the naked eye.
Symptoms can occur within 3 to 30 days after a bite. Ticks must be attached to the human for at least 36-48 hours to transmit disease. If the human removes the tick within 48 hours, he/she probably won’t get the disease. Lyme disease is diagnosed by symptoms which can include chills, fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, and swollen lymph nodes. For many infected individuals, the classic red bull’s-eye round rash is one of the first symptoms. Up to 30% of those bitten will not get a rash.
There are three stages to the disease:
- Early Localized – flu-like symptoms and rash
- Early Disseminated – flu-like symptoms with pain, numbness in arms/legs, Bell’s palsy
- Late Disseminated- arthritis, fatigue, dizziness, sleep disturbances, mental confusion
Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics like doxycycline or others, depending on the patient and upon the physician’s preference, for a period of 2-3 weeks.
Clothes treated with permethrin 0.5% make it hard for blacklegged ticks to bite you or stick to your clothes (Eisen. J Medical Entomology July 20, 2016). In addition:
*Wear socks and pants when you walk in the woods
*Wear a tick repellent on skin and clothes that contains DEET, lemon oil, eucalyptus, or (better still) permethrin
*Take a shower within two hours of coming inside after possible exposure to blacklegged ticks
*Remove ticks from your skin with a pair of tweezers, then clean the area with 70% rubbing alcohol or soap and water
*Check your skin and hair, and wash ticks out of your hair ASAP after walking in the woods
*Place exposed clothing in a hot dryer to kill whatever ticks remain