It finally feels like spring, so it’s time to start thinking about preventing tick bites. Over the past 15 years, the rates of Lyme disease have been rising in Vermont.
For the past several years, there have been more than 400 Vermonters each year diagnosed with Lyme disease. In 2015, Vermont had the highest number of confirmed Lyme disease cases in the United States, according to the Vermont Department of Health.
Lyme Disease Symptoms & Prevention
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that can be transmitted to people through the bite of a blacklegged tick (also known as a deer tick) that is infected with the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. If the tick is attached to the person for at least 24-48 hours, then the bacteria can be transferred to the person and they can become infected.
There are three stages of Lyme disease. Most people are diagnosed and treated during early infection; however, if left untreated the infection can progress and cause additional manifestations.
1) Early Stage: 7-14 days after tick bite
Erythema migrans rash (see Figure 2) at the site of the tick bite. Frequently the rash has a classic bull’s-eye appearance, but it can also appear homogenous. Flu-like symptoms may also develop including headache, fever, and muscle pain (Figure 3).
2) Intermediate Stage: Days-Weeks after tick bite
Multiple erythema migrans rashes, facial palsy, meningitis, heart block due to inflammation of the heart.
3) Late Stage: Months-Years
Intermittent bouts of arthritis with joint swelling, weakness, numbness, and pain from nerve damage, usually in the hands and feet.
If you have been bitten by a tick and are experiencing these symptoms, it is important to contact your physician who can provide the proper evaluation and treatment.
How to Prevent Tick Bites:
Here are some easy steps we can all take to protect ourselves from being bitten by ticks and still enjoy time outdoors:
1) Avoid Ticks
- When outdoors, walk in the center of trails and avoid wooded areas
2) Repel Ticks
- Use 20-30% DEET on skin/clothing
- Treat clothing/gear with permethrin
3) Remove Ticks
- Bathe or shower within 2 hours after spending time outside in tick prone areas
- Conduct a full body tick check using a mirror
- Inspect pets and gear for ticks
- Put your clothes in the dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on clothing
Molly Markowitz, is a fourth year medical student at the Robert Larner College Of Medicine at the University Of Vermont.