Lyme Disease Overview
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that is reaching epidemic proportions in some regions of the United States.
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that is transmitted through the bite of several kinds of ticks, including deer ticks. The ticks pick up the bacteria, called Borrelia burgdorferi (B. burfdorferi) when they bite deer or mice that are infected. When infected ticks bite humans, they spread the bacteria.
Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) dramatically increased the estimate of the annual number of new cases of Lyme disease in the United States from 30,000 to 300,000. The number of new cases each year certainly qualifies this infection as an epidemic or at least a highly endemic disease.
In the United States, Lyme disease is most common in northeastern states, from Virginia to Maine; north-central states, mostly Wisconsin and Minnesota; and the West Coast, mainly in the northwest.
Ticks can attach themselves to any part of the human body, but are most commonly found in the groin, armpits and scalp. If you find a tick on your body, don't panic. There are safe ways to remove ticks. Usually the tick must be attached to the body for 36 to 48 hours before the Lyme disease bacteria is transmitted.
Lyme disease has three stages:
- Stage 1: The infection has not yet spread throughout the body (called early localized Lyme disease)
- Stage 2: The infection has begun to spread throughout the body (called early disseminated Lyme disease)
- Stage 3: The infection has spread throughout the body (called late disseminated Lyme disease)
The best way to prevent Lyme disease is to avoid walking or hiking in the woods and areas with high grass. If you do walk or hike in these areas:
- Wear light-colored clothing. If ticks land on you, you can spot them more easily.
- Wear long sleeves and long pants, with the pant legs tucked into your socks.
- Spray exposed skin and your clothing with insect repellant, such as DEET or permethrin.
- When you return home, remove your clothes and inspect all skin surface areas thoroughly—including your scalp. Shower to wash off any ticks you can’t see.