Lyme disease is a bacterial infection by the genus Borrelia. The disease got its name from a village in Connecticut named Lyme where a small outbreak happened in 1975. Ticks harbor the causal bacteria in their stomach, and a bite from these infected ticks can spread the disease to humans. Until now, there has been no known human to human transmission of the disease. People living near forests or those who love to stay outdoors where deer ticks abound are prone to contract Lyme disease. With timely and appropriate treatment, the victim can recover without serious secondary damage.
Lyme disease is caused by infection of bacteria that belongs to the genus Borrelia. In the U.S.A., Lyme disease is often cause by Borrelia burgdorferi, which is transmitted by infected ticks to humans. In areas where Lyme disease is rampant, almost 50 percent of the ticks are carriers of the pathogen. The ticks live in bushes and grasses in forest floors waiting for warm blooded animals including humans to pass by and latch on to. However, for the bacteria to enter the body, an infected tick must attach to the body through its mouth for at least 48 hours. After infection, it takes 2 to 4 weeks for the symptoms to appear.
The first symptom of Lyme disease is a reddish circular rash that often appears at the site of the bite. The rash has a typical bull's eye shape: a concentrated red dot at the center surrounded by clear skin, which is surrounded by a red ring forming a rash. The rash is accompanied by flu-like symptoms: headache, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, and muscle pain. A severe case can lead to irregular heart rhythm and chest pain due to heart complication. Facial paralysis, stiff neck, and numbness in the extremities can also occur due to possible nerve infection and meningitis.
Early stage of Lyme disease is easily treated with oral antibiotics. These include doxycycline, amoxicillin, or cefuroxime axetil. A 10 to 14 days treatment is usually enough to eliminate the bacteria from the body. Longer exposure to antibiotics is not recommended as it may only cause unnecessary complications from prolong exposure to antibiotics. In severe cases of Lyme disease, an intravenous antibiotic given for 14 to 28 days is needed to cure the disease. However, intravenous antibiotics expose a patient to more serious side-effects.
Preventing Lyme disease tantamount to preventing the only mode of infection: tick bites. Wearing protective clothing like long pants, long sleeves, and close shoes when visiting tick prone areas are advised for protection. Upon coming home, make a thorough inspection of your whole body especially your hair, between toes, back of the knees, and groin for ticks. It is also good to check your pets for signs of ticks if you used to bring them hiking with you. The use of insect repellent containing DEET is also advised.