Avoiding and identifying Lyme disease

Adult_deer_tick

By Jennifer Fajman

Resident Writer

Lyme disease is caused by bacteria passed by infected ticks. Ticks are common on deer and can transfer to pets, as when dogs are walked. Why is Lyme disease significant? The number of cases on the East Coast has increased considerably in the last few years. If Lyme disease is not treated promptly and appropriately, there can be long-term damage (e.g., painful arthritis and neurological problems). There is no vaccine for Lyme disease, but antibiotics are available that can reduce the effects of the disease, once it is diagnosed.

What are the symptoms of Lyme disease? One of the most visible signs is a red “bulls-eye” rash (a circle with a dot in the center). The rash usually appears between three and 14 days after the tick bite. Other symptoms include muscle and joint pain, fatigue, chills and fever, and headache. Symptoms that may appear weeks or months after the bite can consist of arthritis (joint pain and swelling) or nervous system symptoms, such as paralysis of the facial muscle. Clearly, these symptoms could be caused by something other than Lyme disease and not everyone with Lyme disease has all these symptoms.

How to avoid Lyme disease? Check for ticks after being outside, take a shower and look for the rash. Stay away from locations where deer are found. If you have a pet that goes outside, check it for ticks.

What to do if you suspect you have Lyme’s disease? See your doctor. There are tests and treatment. The earlier the diagnosis, the more effective the treatment.

For more information, see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s
website, http://www.cdc.gov.

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