Lyme Disease Basics
Lyme disease is caused by the a bacteria (Borrelia burgdorferi) transmitted by the bite of infected an tick (Ixiodes, see pic below) that live on deer. It is primarily found in the eastern and Midwest US and a small area of Northern California NOT Arizona or any other neighboring states. (See map below)Most infections occur between May and November, with a peak incidence in June through August; 75% of cases occur during the summer months. Arizona is not an area where Lyme disease is common– there were 8 confirmed cases in 2015. Summer travel can lead to exposure so prevention and attention are key.
- Avoid areas where ticks are plentiful
- Stay on trails and avoid heavily wooded areas
- Wear long sleeves and pants (light colors make it easier to spot dark ticks)
- Use repellants: Permethrin for clothes, tents and gear (not skin) and DEET for skin works for ticks as well as mosquitos is safe for children (<30%) and pregnant women
- Check for ticks and remove immediately (see picture below)
- It takes hours for the tick to attach fully and 36 hours or greater to infect
- Best to grasp mouth parts with tweezers and lift off entire tick. Try to avoid crushing the tick’s body
- DO NOT use petroleum jelly, a hot match, nail polish, or other products.
- REMOVAL is most important
- Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within 2 hours) to wash away ticks you may not see
- After being outdoors, tumble dry clothing in a hot dryer for 10 minutes to kill any ticks that are attached to clothing
- Recognize symptoms and seek care
What to Watch for
Early disease (Stage I)
- Rash 2/3 of people infected develop Erythema migrans, within about 7 days after the tick bite near the site of the bite
- About half of patients describe flulike symptoms within days to 1 week of infection: fever, chills and fatigue
Late Lyme disease(Stage II, III)
- appear weeks or months after a tick bite
- Arthritis is most likely to appear as brief bouts of pain and swelling, usually in one or more large joints, especially the knees.
- Nervous system symptoms can include numbness, pain, nerve paralysis (often of the facial muscles, usually on one side), and meningitis (fever, stiff neck, and severe headache).
- Rarely, irregularities of the heart rhythm may occur
- Problems with memory or concentration
- Early Lyme disease can be treated successfully with a few weeks of antibiotics
- Late or no treatment can lead to prolonged symptoms
Other Questions about Lyme Disease
Can Lyme disease be transmitted sexually?
There is no evidence that Lyme disease is transmitted from person-to-person through touching, kissing, or having sex with a person who has Lyme disease.
Can Lyme disease be transmitted during a blood transfusion?
Although in theory Lyme disease could be spread through blood transfusions or other contact with infected blood, there are no known cases
What about pregnant women?
Use the same prevention and attention methods listed above. Early diagnosis of Lyme disease is important during pregnancy. Very rarely, Lyme disease acquired during pregnancy may lead to infection of the placenta and may possibly lead to stillbirth. Studies of women infected during pregnancy have found that there are no negative effects on the fetus when the mother receives appropriate antibiotic treatment for her Lyme disease. There are no reports of Lyme disease transmission through breast milk.
Is there a Lyme disease vaccine?
A vaccine for Lyme disease is not currently available.
Can I get other diseases from ticks?
In some regions, black legged ticks can spread other diseases and other types of ticks can spread other diseases like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. The prevention and attention methods will reduce your risk of these as well.