Tick Borne Disease: Lyme Disease
August 20, 2019
Can ticks be dangerous to us humans? Most people think that ticks only can affect our pets, but the reality is much bleaker than that. Humans, unfortunately, are susceptible to ticks and the diseases they spread. We are on our last legs for this year's summer season, but there is still plenty of time for ticks to be active. Ticks are active during the summer.
Ticks are so dangerous because of the diseases they are capable of spreading. They are actually carrying with them pathogens that cause the disease in humans. Some of these diseases include anaplasmosis, babesiosis, heartland virus, Powassan disease, tick-borne relapsing fever, and Lyme disease. In this article, we will discuss Lyme disease because it is now a major problem for North Carolina and full attention should be given to it by the health authorities.
July is the peak month of Lyme disease, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. The increase in the deer tick population, or what is more commonly called the black-legged ticks, is pointed to as the cause of the increase in Lyme disease cases in North Carolina. In 2015, black-legged ticks were found in 60 North Carolina states, double from the 1996 data. Lyme disease is now a major problem for North Carolina and full attention should be given to it by the health authorities.
What Is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is a painful and disabling disease that is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. This disease is transmitted to humans through the black-legged tick bites, also known as deer ticks. This disease causes flu-like symptoms and if left untreated, can cause severe deterioration of one’s motor and cognitive skills. Usual symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and erythema migrans. Erythema migrans is a skin rash characteristic of Lyme disease.
This disease is diagnosed based on symptoms and possible exposure to ticks. When you have these symptoms, consult a doctor and tell him or her that you went outdoors which made it possible that you were exposed to ticks. Laboratory testing may also be performed.
This disease is spread through tick bites. The Bacterium borrelia bacteria is the cause of the disease which the ticks happily spread. Ticks are capable of attaching themselves to any part of our body. They do favor hidden areas like the groin, armpits, and scalp. Usually, ticks should be attached to humans for about 36 hours before the disease can be transmitted. The immature nymphs actually do the dirty job of transmitting simply because they are smaller in size. They are only about 2 mm and is almost impossible to see. The adult ticks are also capable of spreading the disease but it is highly unlikely due to their larger size; you would probably spot them before they can do any kind of damage. The nymphs feed during spring and summer.
It is also possible to transmit Lyme disease through blood transfusion. Scientists have discovered that the Bacterium borrelia bacteria can live in the blood that has been stored for donation. Therefore, people with Lyme disease should not donate blood. No such cases have been recorded yet, though.
Ticks do not fly. They also cannot jump. Instead, they lie in wait outdoors. They position themselves on shrubs and grasses, and when a human brushes by these shrubs or grasses, they will quickly latch onto their newfound human host.
Signs and Symptoms
For Lyme disease, there are many stages of infection, and each stage has different symptoms. Lyme disease in its early stage is said to be within 3 days to 30 days after the tick bite. Early symptoms include muscle pain, joint pain, fever, headache, chills, and swollen lymph nodes. Erythema migrans also appears. This is a kind of rash which appears on 70 percent of those who are infected. It begins at the site of the tick bite and grows to at least 12 inches after a few days. It is not itchy nor is it painful, and feels warm to the touch.
The later signs and symptoms are severe headaches and neck stiffness, arthritis with severe joint pain and swelling, facial palsy, additional Erythema migrans, and rash on different parts of the body, irregular heartbeat, occasional dizziness and shortness of breath, and numbness or tingling in the hands or feet.
Patients are treated with antibiotics. Those who are treated during the early stages of the disease recover rather quickly. Antibiotics used to treat Lyme disease include doxycycline, cefuroxime axetil, and amoxicillin.
To prevent Lyme disease, it is important that you learn how to identify the ticks that transmit them.
Blacklegged ticks, or deer ticks, feed on the blood of animals as well as the blood of humans. Their bodies are red to brown in color, a solid black dorsal shield, and long, thin mouthparts. They are about 3 mm to 5 mm in size and have eight legs. They can be found all throughout the world, especially in hot climates. Deer ticks are more commonly found feeding on mice, chipmunks, birds, reptiles, shrews, and our beloved pet dogs and cats. Only the mice, birds, and shrews can transmit Lyme disease to ticks.
The life cycle of ticks has four stages: egg, larva, then onto a nymph, and finally the adult. The larvae, nymph, and adults all need blood meals. The males adult ticks do not feed on blood, but instead, look for an engorged female tick to mate with. After mating, the male tick will die. It is usually the female adult ticks and the nymphs that feed on blood. Unlike most parasites, fleas do not fly or jump. They just crawl or use their legs to grab onto a host. People get ticks outdoors. Ticks live in wooded, grassy, and brushy areas. In case you get the itch to go out, especially during these last few weeks of summer, here are some tips to avoid getting ticks:
1) Use the Environmental Protection Agency - registered insect repellents. Look for one that contains the ingredient DEET, picaridin, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, or para-menthane-diol for a higher level of protection. Before applying this, be sure to read the directions.
2) When you plan to go out, remember to treat your clothing and gear with products that contain 0.5% Permethrin. Permethrin lasts a long time, even after a few items of washing, so you will be protected for several days with the same clothing, boots, and camping gear and you do not have to apply it every time you go out.
3) Wear light-colored clothing. It is not that ticks do not like it, it simply makes it easier to spot ticks crawling on you so you can remove it before it reaches your skin.
4) Wear long pants. Tuck them into your socks. Wear a long sleeved shirt and tuck it in your pants.
5) When you are already outside, be mindful of where the ticks are. They can be found in grassy areas, wooded areas, and brushy areas.
6) After you are done with your outdoor activity, immediately check for ticks on your clothing and on your body. You may be carrying the ticks back home already. Remove any ticks found on your clothing and wash clothes immediately by tumble drying on a dryer on high heat for ten minutes to kill the ticks.
7) Take a bath as soon as you get home. Using a mirror, check your whole body for ticks. If you find ticks on your skin, remove using a tweezer. Check under your arms, belly button, in and around your ears, at the back of the knees, between the legs, and around your waist. Grasp the tick as close to your skin as possible. Do not crush the tick with your fingertips. Dispose of it by putting it in a plastic bag or flush it down the toilet.
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