Lyme disease is an infectious and debilitating disease that was first identified in New Jersey in 1981. From 1990-2012 approximately 56, treat 000 cases of Lyme Disease have been reported in New Jersey alone and approximately 90% of Lyme Disease cases originate from 13 Northeastern states.
Lyme disease is caused by the spirochete (microorganism) Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto and is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected Blacklegged Tick, medical also known as a Deer Tick, Ixodes scapularis. Approximately half of adult Blacklegged Ticks can harbor this disease and up to a quarter of immature ticks. Although Lyme Disease is transmitted by ticks, the disease does not affect them. Lyme Disease tends to build up in populations of Eastern Chipmunks and White-footed Mice, from there the disease can be spread to deer, humans and other larger mammals. Infected humans cannot spread the disease to other humans, instead a tick is required to transmit the disease.
Humans who have been bitten by an infected tick may not exhibit symptoms immediately, often the first outward symptom will be a large rash with a clear center, sometimes referred to as a “bull’s-eye” rash, anywhere from 3 to 30 days after the bite itself. Between 20%-30% of infected humans will show no sign of this rash. Other early symptoms may include extreme fatigue, headache, and nausea. If left untreated, the disease can attack the heart, joints and central nervous system, causing severe and debilitating pain. Approximately 10%-15% of affected patients will develop severe and immediate neurological symptoms including facial palsy, meningitis or encephalitis.
If you find a tick, it is very important to remove the tick immediately. It’s best to use a pair of tweezers and gripping the head of the tick, remove the tick by pulling slowly, making sure you don’t crush the tick or tear it apart. There are some companies like NJ Labs that offer a Lyme Disease test, click here for information about the test and the testing submission information.
While tick testing is an excellent option, it should not replace proper medical attention. Considering the infection timeline and the amount of time to obtain proper test results, it’s imperative to see a doctor immediately if you have any suspicion that the tick you’ve been bitten by is a Black-legged Tick.
Reducing your exposure to ticks is the only way to prevent Lyme Disease. Always use insect repellent and wear long pants when camping, hiking or in other woodland areas. Ticks favor areas with tall grass and leaf-litter, its best to avoid these areas if possible. Keep your backyard well maintained, free of leaf litter and with a properly cut lawn with trimmed edges. If you have pets, a proper flea and tick treatment is strongly advised.
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