Interesting Facts About Lyme Disease

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What do Shania Twain, Avril Lavigne, Alec Baldwin, and former US president George W. Bush have in common?  They were all afflicted with Lyme Disease at some point in their life!  The disease is irrespective of person. This article will highlight facts about Lyme Disease.

Do you enjoy the outdoors and being in nature?  Do you like camping, hiking or biking on trails in the woods? Well, if you do, be mindful of black-legged deer ticks. Ticks bites can occur during mild winters with little snow and during spring, summer and fall.  People who like to participate in golfing, hunting, camping, fishing, or hiking should take precautions to prevent tick bites.

Lyme disease is an infection caused by Borrelia Burgdorferi bacteria and it’s transmitted by ticks that suck the blood of humans and other animals. Interestingly, a tick looks like a small flat watermelon seed. In 2009 there were 128 cases of Lyme disease and in 2015 a staggering 700 cases were reported according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

What are the signs and symptoms of Lyme Disease you might ask?  The signs and symptoms of Lyme Disease may include; a rash,(sometimes shaped like a bull’s eye) also known as (Erythema Migrans (EM rash)), fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint aches, and or swollen lymph nodes can occur anywhere from 3-30 days after a bite from an infected tick. Flu like symptoms can occur in the early stage of the disease progressing to more serious symptoms sometimes weeks after the bite.

According to the Government of Canada website, if left untreated, more severe symptoms may occur and can last from months to years. Severe symptoms may include; severe headaches, additional EM skin rashes, facial paralysis (i.e. Bell’s palsy), intermittent muscle, joint, tendon and bone aches, heart disorders (heart palpitations, abnormal heartbeat), known as Lyme carditis, neurological disorders (dizziness, mental confusion or inability to think clearly, and memory loss, inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, nerve pain, numbness or tingling in the hands or feet), arthritis with severe joint pain and swelling, particularly the knees and less commonly in other joints such as the ankle, elbow and wrists. In rare cases, Lyme Disease can lead to death usually because of complications involving infection of the heart.

Since symptoms vary from one person to the next, diagnosis can be difficult.  Lab tests and a positive history of tick exposure may aid in diagnosis. Most cases of Lyme Disease can be effectively treated with 2 to 4 weeks of antibiotics such as doxycycline, amoxicillin, or cefuroxime axetil. Doxycycline should not be used to treat Lyme Disease in pregnant women as it may affect the unborn child.  Depending on the symptoms and when a person was diagnosed, a longer course or repeat treatment with antibiotics is required.  Some people experience symptoms that continue more than six months after treatment. 

Use bug spray containing DEET or Icaridin on your skin and clothing (always follow the directions on the label), remove ticks within 24-36 hours of a tick being attached to the skin, and/or do a tick check of outdoor gear and or pets are only a few ways to prevent Lyme Disease.

Closer to home, mow the lawn regularly to keep the grass short, remove leaf litter, brush and weeds at the edge of the lawn and around stone walls and wood piles, stack firewood neatly and in a dry area, put barriers to exclude deer from around your home and seal stone walls and small openings to discourage rodent activity, place children’s recreational playground sets, patios and decks away from the yard edges and trees. Place them on a wood chip or mulch foundation and in a sunny location, if possible, and/or treat pets that are commonly exposed to ticks with oral or topic acaricides (as recommended by a veterinarian) as they could carry ticks into the home.

As we are well into the summer months, enjoy the weather but be vigilant in protecting against tick bites. Thank you for the opportunity to share information this week on Lyme Disease. 


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