DARKE COUNTY – With the summer season in full swing, many families are enjoying the great out-of-doors. This increased amount of outside activity also brings a greater chance for individuals to be exposed to tick bites. When summer fun takes people on hiking excursions, exploring in wooded areas, or walking though tall grass and heavy brush habitats – the opportunity for tick bite exposure increases greatly.
Lyme Disease is a tick-borne illness caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. This pathogen resides normally within the bodies of small mammals (such as mice & squirrels) without causing illness to them. An infection cycle occurs, however, when the blacklegged tick (formerly known as the deer tick) bites one of these small mammals that is harboring the bacterium, and the tick in turn acts as the carrier of Lyme Disease when it delivers the infection to a human victim via the tick bite. The tick, when providing the inflecting bite, attaches itself to the human skin surface. In order for the disease process to complete itself, the tick must remain attached to the victim’s body for a minimum of 24 to 36 hours.
Because many folks walk, play, or spend time in the aforementioned environmental areas, they should heed to the following suggestions to avoid tick bites and thereby contacting Lyme Disease exposure:
* When visiting wooded or thick brushed areas, wear light colored clothing.
* When visiting wooded and/or high grass areas, keep long legged pants tucked into socks or boots and wear long sleeved shirts.
* When returning from the outdoors spent in the woody areas, thoroughly check yourself and your children’s body surfaces for any possible tick-bites.
* If a tick has bitten your skin surface, remove it completely (and correctly) with tweezers.
* Taking a shower as soon as possible after the outdoor activity helps remove any chances of small sized ticks remaining on the body that may not be visible with the human eye.
* When participating in outdoor activities, use repellents containing 0.5% permethrin or 20-30% DEET. Follow directions carefully.
* Avoid walking in tall grass & weeds.
* Keep yard and play areas well mowed to discourage ticks.
* Since dogs can also carry a tick on their body surface into a household, make sure you have thoroughly checked their skin surface for ticks as well.
The important point to strive for is the removal of a tick from one’s body surface as soon as possible – the sooner the better. If the tick is removed from the body surface soon enough (before 24 hours has passed from exposure), the “bitten” individual can likely avoid acquiring infection.
Although more commonly found in the late spring & summer months, the blacklegged tick exists throughout the entire year. And Darke County, OH is not exempt from this creature and its disease results, as the Darke County Health Department has already reported 1 case of Lyme Disease this year.
The most common marker of a tick bite is that of a skin lesion which occurs in 60 to 80% of victims. If not caught and treated, the lesion area will expand in size and spread for several days to weeks. As time passes, the infected individual can develop various flu-like symptoms – such as, fatigue, fever, headache, mild stiff neck, arthralgia, and/or myalgia. But the good news is that Lyme Disease caught and diagnosed in its early stages can be treated with full recovery. Please note: Lyme Disease is NOT transmitted from person to person.
Untreated Lyme Disease can have long term, debilitating effects on the body. Undiagnosed, misdiagnosed, or late diagnosed – Lyme Disease can result in the infection spreading to other areas of the body. These additional concerns could include loss of muscle tone on one or both sides of the face (Bell’s palsy), severe headaches, neck stiffness due to meningitis, additional rashes in other body areas, pain in tendons, muscles, joints, and bones, heart palpitations, dizziness, nerve pain, and/or swelling in large joints.
The majority of Lyme Disease cases are successfully treated with oral antibiotics. Since serology testing is the only definitive way of diagnosing Lyme Disease – anyone who suspects or knows they have been bitten by a tick should consult their physician. Often times symptoms remain hidden and surface later after the infection has taken hold within one’s body. Early diagnosis and early treatment is the best way to avoid unnecessary illness.