With more people outside during the summer months, there is an increased chance of encountering ticks and possibly getting Lyme disease. Lyme disease is caused by infection with bacteria that are transmitted by bites from ticks. People may develop headache, fever, fatigue and a rash that often looks like a bull's eye with concentric light and dark circles within a few weeks of being bitten by an infected tick. Infected ticks are most common in the northeastern states of the U.S. as well as states on the western edge of the Great Lakes; however, almost every state has reported cases of Lyme disease in a given year. Cases are most commonly diagnosed in July, followed by June and August; however, cases are diagnosed throughout the year.
You can protect yourself from developing Lyme disease by following some common practices:
Ticks generally require about 36 hours of attachment to the skin to transmit disease.
To decrease tick infestation in your yard, remove leaf litter and woodpiles and create wood chip or gravel zones between lawns and the edge of wooded areas. Also, check pets after they have been near wooded areas as they can carry ticks into your home.
A vaccine to protect against Lyme disease was available in the U.S. from 1998 until 2002. Although the vaccine was safe, reports suggested that the vaccine was a cause of arthritis. This negative press as well as a relatively small group of people who were said to have received the vaccine (adults in about 10 states with a high incidence of Lyme disease) led to low sales and ultimately its removal from the market. So, each year more than 20,000 people suffer from Lyme disease, making it the most common illness transmitted by bugs or animals in this country - and the technology to prevent it sits unused.
Although Lyme disease is the most common illness transmitted by ticks, there are about 11 different diseases that people can get when bitten by a tick. Most of these are characterized by the same symptoms as those of Lyme disease.
There are multiple types of ticks that can transmit disease. The black-legged tick is responsible for spreading Lyme disease, but can also spread other tick-borne illnesses. Other common disease-carrying ticks include the Lone star tick and the American dog tick.
Updated: January 2012
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