Have you been bitten by a deer tick?
The incidence of Lyme disease has tripled in the last 30 years. The CDC reports 30,000 cases of Lyme disease each year however, it is estimated that this number could be as high as 300,000 cases in the U.S each year. The number of cases of lyme disease in Europe has also continued to grow with 360,000 reported cases in the last two decades.
- What is Lyme Disease?
- The Facts
- What causes Lyme disease?
- What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?
- Should you get tested for Lyme disease?
What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is an infectious condition. The bacteria causing disease is spread most commonly through the bite of a black legged tick, also known as a deer tick.
There are four main strains of bacteria including: Borrelia burgdorferi and Borrelia mayonii in the United States and Borrelia afzelii and Borrelia garinii in Europe and Asia.
These bacterias are most commonly found in grassy or woodland areas. Black legged ticks vary in size but can be as small as a poppy seed and go unnoticed to the naked eye.
- Lyme disease is the most commonly reported vector borne disease in the United States.
- You can’t get lyme disease from another person.
- It takes upto 48 hours to become infected from a tick.
- Lyme disease vaccine was discontinued in 2002, however the incidence of lyme disease has increased since.
- 70-80% of people experience a rash that looks like a bulls-eye upto 30 days after becoming infected.
What causes Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is most prevalent in Summer and Autumn.
Lyme disease is transmitted via the bite of an infected black-legged tick, commonly known as a deer tick. The only way to avoid lyme disease is to avoid being bitten by a tick.
Spending time in areas that are rich in vegetation and woodland puts you at a higher chance of contracting lyme disease, black legged ticks are often found on deer hence their alternative name so coming into contact with deers on a regular basis also heightens your risk.
Black legged ticks are not exclusively found on deer. They can also be found on mice, as one qualitative study found that mice infestations could be telling of whether there will be a surge in incidence of lyme disease in certain locations. Mice can carry upto 50-100 ticks on their ears and faces alone at any one time.
In the United States, deer ticks are most prevalent in the Northeast and Midwest regions. In Europe, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Lithuania and Slovenia have the highest incidence of lyme disease. In these locations, it is recommended that you check your skin periodically for signs of ticks or tick bites.
If you go camping or hike on a regular basis, it is recommended that you wear long sleeved shirts or pants and use anti-repellent sprays. The same is said if you come into contact with larger woodland animals on a regular basis.
What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?
If you are bitten by a tick or have gotten a tick removed, a small, red bump appears at the point of contact, this should resolve over a few days. If the tick has been attached to the skin for a minimum of 36 hours, the likelihood of becoming infected with lyme disease drastically increases.
The blood will become infected with Borrelia (BORR) and physical symptoms may begin between 3 and 30 days of infection.
Early symptoms of Lyme Disease include:
- Erythema migrans rash/itch: Between 3 and 30 days of being bitten by a tick, a rash may appear. This rash spreads outwards leaving a read circle at it’s centre, in a bulls-eye pattern. This pattern may appear on other parts of the body.
- Flu-like symptoms: headache, fever, chills and fatigue could be indicative of Lyme disease.
- The skin may feel warm and tingly in parts.
Late Signs and Symptoms of Lyme Disease
- Short term memory loss
- Numbness or tingling in the feet and hands
- Facial palsy
- Pain in muscles, joints, bones and tendons
- Inflammation of the brain and/or spinal cord
- Shortness of breath
- Lyme Carditis: irregular heartbeat
Should you get tested for Lyme disease?
A minority of black-legged ticks bites will cause Lyme disease, however, that doesn't rule the danger of developing Lyme disease out. You are more likely to contract Lyme disease...
- If you are presenting with symptoms of Lyme disease in the days following being bitten or having the tick removed.
- If you live in a place that is rich in vegetation or woodland.
- If you live in northern America or central Europe.
- If you go camping or hiking on a regular basis.
- If you come into contact with larger woodland animals on a regular basis.
To avoid more serious conditions that are offset by infected ticks, it is important to get tested if you are presenting with symptoms of Lyme disease or if you had to get a tick removed.
Buy an At-Home Lyme Disease Check
Written by Hannah Kingston | Approved by Medical Director Dominic Rowley