Approximately 300,000 Americans each year are diagnosed with Lyme disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That is 10 times higher than the number of cases reported annually to the CDC. Lyme disease, which comes from a bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi, is the most common spread illness spread by ticks in North America and Europe. These blacklegged ticks can spread this bacteria while feeding on the blood of animals and humans.
What Are The Symptoms of Lyme Disease? Symptoms of Lyme disease include: fever, headache, fatigue, and a rash called erythema migrans. The rash resembles a bull’s eye and can appear within a few days of infection. 70-80% of people with Lyme disease develop this rash. If Lyme disease is left untreated, the infection can spread to the joints causing serious pain and complications. It can also spread to the heart and nervous system. Temporary paralysis may also be a severe symptom of Lyme disease.
What is the Treatment? Oral antibiotics is the standard treatment for Lyme disease. If the central nervous system is affected, intravenous antibiotics can be administered.
How Can You Prevent Lyme Disease? Whenever you plan on going into the woods, on a hike or walking through tall grass, wear insect repellent with at least 20% DEET concentration. Avoid wooded and high grass areas as much as possible. Check for ticks daily and shower soon after being outdoors. Before you head out on a hike, walk or run, wear sneakers or boots and long socks. Also wear long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Your pets can also bring in ticks so give them their tick treatment regularly and check them as well.
Not only can ticks carry Lyme disease, but they can also transmit other illnesses such as babesiosis and Powassan encephalitis. Unfortunately, a 17-year-old male from Poughkeepsie suddenly died this summer from Powassan encephalitis after he was bit by a tick. He died two weeks after experiencing fatigue, a headache and a minor cough. He had been tested for Lyme disease and step throat, but the tests came back negative.
As a result of this tragedy, the Dutchess County Department of Health has issued its third health advisory in four years about the deadly virus. A recent study by the journal Parasites & Vectors reports 6% of ticks in the Hudson Valley carry a variant of Powassan encephalitis. Read more about this unfortunate tragedy. We remind everyone to take the proper precautions before performing any outdoor activity this summer. Tick bites are much more dangerous than we may believe and they can be lethal.