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Troublesome Ticks

Lyme Disease Awareness


What is Lyme Disease?

The most common bacterial infection transmitted through tick bites. The three main species of bacteria causing the illness are Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto (common in US), Borrelia garinii, and Borrelia afzelii. (common in Europe). Certain black-legged ticks found on deer harbor the bacterium in their stomachs. When these ticks bite the human skin, it causes the bacterium to infect the body and cause Lyme Disease. Ticks contract it as larvae when they feed on infected mice or squirrel. Adult female ticks need the skin of the deer to lay their eggs and for food, but the deer are not infected. Lyme disease is not contagious from an affected person to another.

Symptoms of Lyme Disease:

Early symptoms that may be noticeable are fatigue, headache, fever, flu-like symptoms, muscle soreness, depression and a characteristic circular skin rash can occur called as erythema migrans (EM) that looks red, warm and resembling a bull’s eye.. When left untreated, Lyme disease can cause abnormalities in the skin, joints, heart, and nervous system. This disease is difficult to diagnose as symptom-manifestations also resemble that of many other diseases. Lyme disease acquired during pregnancy may lead to infection of the placenta and possible stillbirth.

Prevalence of Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne illness in the United States especially between the months of May and September when nymphal ticks are most active and people are frequently outdoors and most exposed to them. The nymphal stage of the tick is mostly responsible for the infection. The incubation time for the appearance of symptoms is normally 2 to 4 weeks; however, may be much shorter or very much longer than this. It is endemic in North America (Massachusetts now is in the fourth highly-infected place according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), Europe, and Asia: Though the description of the syndrome dates to at least 100 years back in Europe, the full spectrum of the disease came to be identified only in 1975. In a place called Lyme in Connecticut suddenly a group of children were affected with juvenile arthritis at the same time. This led researchers to analyze the causative agent and mechanism of the disease and hence given the name Lyme Disease. Decreasing the deer population has not proved beneficial in Lyme-disease zones as deers are only utilized for the completion of the tick’s life cycle and deers themselves are not infected.

Other tick-borne diseases : Colorado tick fever, Powassan encephalitis, Q fever, Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness, Tick-Borne Relapsing Fever, Tularemia, and Anaplasmosis.

Risk category for Lyme Disease : Workers in the Northeastern and North-Central United States are at highest risk of exposure to infected ticks. Woods, bushes, high grass, or leaf litter are the likely tick habitats. According to CDC, the high-risk are the outdoor workers; those in Construction, Landscaping, Forestry, Brush clearing, Land surveying, Farming, Railroad work, Oil field work, Utility line work, and Park or wildlife management.

Prevention of tick bites/infection

1. Removing tick habitats.

2. Using 20%-30% DEET on exposed skin and clothing to prevent tick bites.

3. Applying Permethrin to pants, socks, and shoes is effective through several washings.

4. Wearing hat, long-sleeved shirts and long pants tucked into boots or socks.

5. Checking for ticks on clothes and skin; the immature forms of ticks are very small and hardly visible.

6. Showering or bathing after outdoor work and checking for any ticks on hair, underarm, and groin area.

7. Pulling the ticks off the skin as soon as possible and wash the area with soap and water. Removing infected ticks within 24 hours reduces the risk of Lyme disease bacterium infection because ticks will not transmit the infection until they have had a blood meal.

8. Learning the symptoms of tick-borne diseases and approaching a healthcare professional promptly in case of any symptoms.

Risk category for Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is diagnosed based on symptoms and the possibility of the person’s outdoor work or exposure to infected ticks. The antibody test usually remains positive for months to many years after an infection. Tests like Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) test is used for diagnosing the disease and if this is positive then Western blot test is done to confirm the diagnosis. For people with chronic Lyme arthritis or nervous system symptoms Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test is done.

Treatment for Lyme Disease

Usually, after manifestation of symptoms, treatment should be started early and most cases need antibiotic therapy for a few weeks. Currently, no vaccine is available for Lyme disease. This disease can strike more than once in the same individual.

So let's tackle ticks tactfully!


Watch the Video: How to remove a tick from skin

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Disclaimer: The above content is provided for information and awareness purpose only. It is not prescriptive or suggestive or meant to replaces your qualified physician's advice or consultation.