Lyme Disease 2012
Amy Movius, MD
Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Human Lyme Disease started in Connecticut in the 1970s and hit Maine in 1987. Lyme disease starts as a disease of animals. First, a deer ticks bites an infected animal and “pick up” the bacteria that causes Lyme Disease. The infection is then “delivered” to persons those same ticks later bite. Human Lyme Disease in Maine has been rising every year; more than 1000 cases were reported in 2011. The peak season for Lyme Disease in late spring and summer, BUT, ticks can be active anytime the temperature is above freezing. Last year’s winter was mild so the medical community is expecting to see more tick bites, earlier in the season. Case in point: a member of my own family has already had a tick bite!
May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month so it’s a great time to get ready to NOT get infected. The only fool proof way to avoid Lyme Disease is to have no tick exposure. Since this is near impossible, preventing and quickly detecting any bites is more practical.
To this end, the Maine CDC has developed the “No Ticks 4 ME” rules:
- Wear Protective Clothing
Long sleeves and pants in outdoor “high tick” areas are best. Light colored clothing can make ticks easier to see. Tucking pants into socks and taping them prevents ticks from sneaking up pant legs. After wearing clothes outside, wash in hot water and dry on high heat to eliminate any stowaway ticks you may have missed.
- Use Insect Repellent
These skin repellents must contain DEET or picaridin to repel ticks. You must treat your pets as well or they may escort Lyme carrying ticks straight into your house. Also, clothing can be treated with permethrin to discourage ticks from attaching to them.
- Perform daily tick checks
Yes, daily! Ticks have to be attached at least 24 hours to transmit Lyme disease so finding them promptly keeps you safe. However, these critters are very small and can go undetected if you’re not actively looking for them. It’s also a good idea to shower as soon as possible after coming indoors for the day. If you find a tick don’t put anything on it! Carefully remove it by pulling it gently and straight out with tweezers. Wash the area and use a topical antiseptic and keep an eye out for any rash around the site for the next month.
- Use extra caution in tick habitats
This includes wooded or bushy area, high grass, and areas with lots of leaf litter.
Lyme disease most commonly presents with a rash around the bite, which can show up days to even a month after the bite, and is usually not painful. Any rash should be seen by a health provider, even if you feel fine at the time. Antibiotics are effective against Lyme disease and, unfortunately, many people who do not get treatment will develop later symptoms – even months later – that can be quite serious.