Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium called Borrelia. Humans are exposed to this germ by getting bitten by the blacklegged tick, also known as a deer tick. Ticks contact the bacteria and get infected when they feed on infected animals and can pass it to humans by biting them. Lyme disease occurs in both adults and children. Symptoms usually begin within a few weeks after the tick bite and include:
- Muscle and joint pain
- Skin rash with a specific look (a bull's eye)
A late form of the disease can cause more serious problems such as arthritis, facial paralysis (inability to move the face muscles), meningitis and heart infection or carditis. These complications usually occur when the disease is not detected and treated early.
Although most cases initially occurred in New England and the Eastern/mid-Atlantic states in the USA, Lyme disease has also been reported in Canada. Confirming the diagnosis of Lyme disease requires special blood tests. Once the diagnosis is made, the treatment is antibiotics for up to 28 days, either by mouth or Intra-Venous, depending on the individual situation.
Lyme Disease prevention
Needless to say, preventing Lyme disease by avoiding ticks is better than getting it. Ticks are small insects about the size of a sesame seed, but when they feed off human blood, grow much larger (about three quarters of an inch). Ticks do not fly, but move slowly on the ground and may settle on tall grass. Also it is important to know that a bite from a tick does not always cause Lyme disease. If you live or work near woods or overgrown bush, you hike, camp, fish or hunt, or have an outdoor job working in landscaping or brush areas; you have a higher chance of getting Lyme disease.
Here are some tips on avoiding ticks:
- Wear light colored clothing, with long pants and a long sleeved shirt.
- Wear closed shoes and socks and tuck your pants into your socks. Do not wear sandals.
- Use a tick repellant containing DEET.
- Keep your grass well cut.
- Put a tick and flea collar on your pet.
If you are in a region where you know there are ticks, make sure you check yourself and your children for ticks, especially in the groin, scalp, and armpit areas. Taking a shower upon returning from a grassy or wooded area is also helpful in removing ticks. If you do find a tick on your skin or your child’s skin, remove it with a pair of tweezers as soon as possible, and wash and disinfect your hands as well as the bite area. If the tick has been there for more than 24 hours, or if you have any other concerns, please contact your healthcare provider.