Lyme Disease

What is Lyme Disease? - Lyme disease (also known as Lyme Borreliosis) is a bacterial infection that is transmitted to humans and other animals by infected ticks. The name stems from Old Lyme, Connecticut, North Eastern USA where they were numerous cases detected in 1975. Although it was later linked as a tick borne disease, it wasn’t until 1982 when the bacteria Borrelia Burgdorferi was identified as the cause of the disease (by a man called Willy Burgdorfer). There are between one to two thousand human cases reported in the UK each year and tens of thousands in the USA (making it the most frequently reported tick borne disease in America).

Symptoms of Lyme Disease - Lyme disease is a worldwide problem. It is not only found in the USA, but in every continent globally. The Borrelia infection can cause rashes, headaches, fatigue, fevers, chills and muscle pains (much like the flu) and these symptoms can develop within a couple of weeks of an infected tick bite. As the initial symptoms are similar to the flu, it does make diagnosis difficult unless the patient is aware that it was the result of a tick bite. A circular rash, in a bull’s eye shape (with a clearing at the centre) can develop over the body in the early stages. Diagnosis and treatment should be sought as early as possible to give the best chance of a full recovery and no long term effects. If the disease is left untreated, it could lead to more serious problems such as meningitis, arthritis, paralysis, problems with the heart and also the central nervous system.

tick lyme disease

Lyme Disease and Tick Bites - It is usually hard ticks (Ixodes) that are responsible for transmitting Lyme disease to humans and pets. In the USA the deer tick (Ixodes scapularis) is linked more commonly with Lyme disease and in the UK, it’s the hedgehog (Ixodes Hexagonus) and castor bean (Ixodes Ricinus) tick. The Ixodes have a four stage life cycle (egg, larvae, nymph and adult). At each stage, the tick must feed on a host to further its development (see our life cycle of a tick page for more information). Hosts of ticks that carry Lyme disease could be deer, cattle, a number of rodents (mice, rats, squirrels, etc), many birds and humans.

What is Lyme Disease?

How can you get Lyme Disease? - The risk of being bitten and infected by a tick with Lyme disease is greater during the tick season (certainly in the spring). Ticks can be found in woods, areas of tall grass such as meadows and heaths and countryside where there are natural habitats that allow them to feed and reproduce. However, towns which have deer and other rodents which could sustain a tick population will not be adverse to ticks. If you are therefore planning on walking, hiking, camping or hunting in areas where you know ticks may be, you should take appropriate precautions. Wearing light colored clothing will allow you to see ticks easier. Tucking pants/trousers in to socks and wearing long sleeved tops tucked in at the waist will prevent ticks getting to your skin. Preventive hats and footwear should also be considered. Applying a good tick repellent will help avoid certain ticks, as will sticking to set paths and staying away from tick-friendly environments. Farmers and those who work near tick infested areas can treat their land with insecticides and apply repellent to their clothes and skin.

How can you get Lyme Disease

Lyme Disease and Treatment - Not all ticks will carry or transmit Lyme disease, even if there are ticks in the area that do. If a human does become infected with Lyme disease as a result of a tick bite, then it can be treated with antibiotics (such as amoxicillin or Doxycyline) if diagnosed quickly. Always look for ways of avoiding being bitten however if it should happen, ticks should be removed correctly and quickly (our Tick removal page may help). Thoroughly search yourself and pets for ticks on a daily basis if you are returning from outdoors, so they aren’t taken into the home. If you do not find a tick but think you have been bitten, then you should monitor the situation and immediately consult a doctor if you show any signs of Lyme disease.

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