New cases of Lyme disease are spreading further into southern and eastern regions of US where cases have been historically low according to a report released by CDC. With an estimated 30,000 new cases reported yearly, statistical data found that 17 states are at high risk for Lyme disease, including Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and Virginia.
Lyme Disease Transmission & Diagnosis
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that can affect many vital organs like the brain, and heart, but it can also affect the central nervous system, muscles and joints if it’s left untreated. What’s particularly interesting about Lyme disease is that it is passed onto humans by tick bite and can present no immediate physical symptoms after the patient is infected. However, it is important to treat Lyme disease as soon as possible in order to mitigate the disease’s effects.
Set of Ticks – Fed, Female, Male, Nymph, Larva
Lyme disease is transmitted by the blacklegged tick that is primarily found on deer and mice. Humans get Lyme disease when these ticks transmit the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria into the blood stream. Once a patient is infected with the bacteria, the progression of early Lyme disease symptoms can cause fever, chills, muscle and joint aches, fatigue, and swollen lymph nodes. While many of these symptoms can take months to develop after an infection, a rash called erythema migrans can occur in some patients 3 to 30 days at the site of a tick bite, and it is identifiable by its red and round-like bulls eye target appearance that can grow on any part of the body.
Lyme disease is diagnosed by doing a series of lab exams that can identify the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria enzymes present in the body. The initial phase of diagnosis involves conducting an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) test that identifies antibodies to Borellia burgdorferi. If a patient tests positive for Lyme disease and shows physical symptoms, a western blot test can detect several proteins of Borrelia burgdorferi, and gives a patient a final diagnosis of positive or negative. If a patient tests positive for Lyme disease, it can be treated by series of antibiotic drugs like doxycycline, amoxicillin, or cefuroxime axetil. Some cases may require other types of antibiotics depending on the severity and length of time the patient has been infected with the bacteria.
Why is Lyme disease spreading?
A report published by the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London attributes the increase in tick population to climate change. To put things in perspective, deer ticks must consume blood during a life cycle that can take up to 3 years. Through this course, deer ticks usually find a host to feed on by resting on grasses and shrubs where they can detect the breath, body odor, heat, moisture or vibrations of the animal or human host. The increase in temperatures and rain events Midwest and Southern regions of US has fueled the amount of shrubs and grasses where rodents, which carry the Borellia burgdorferi bacteria, pass it on to ticks according to researchers. While the lifecycle of a tick is usually completed by the deer host, outdoor activities such as hikes through grassy regions increases rates for infections in humans.
The risk for Lyme disease for humans is greatest in the late spring, summer, and early fall where young eggs mature into larva. The best way to prevent ticks while outdoors is to walk in the middle of trails, away from tall grasses and buses where ticks rest. Another way to prevent infection is by wearing protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts, long pants tucked into high socks, and avoiding wearing open shoes or sandals. Using insect repellents while outdoors can also help prevent ticks from infecting the body.
For more information about Lyme disease symptoms, treatments and medications, visit the Lyme Disease Condition Page.