Don’t Forget Lyme DiseaseJune 16, 2020 3:19 pm
Don’t Forget Lyme Disease
We’ve all got a lot on our minds these days, but as we look to stretch our legs and begin to spend more time outdoors, it’s important that we keep the presence of ticks and Lyme disease in mind. It’s not something to obsess over, but it’s certainly something you should be aware of, particularly if you are outside in wooded areas.
Lyme disease is commonly spread in New Jersey through the bite of deer ticks – also known as black-legged ticks – which carry the disease and are more active in the spring, summer and early fall. Anyone bitten by a tick can be infected, however quick and thorough removal of the tick from the skin can reduce the risk of infection, and the disease cannot be spread from person to person.
Why is being aware of Lyme Disease important?
We’re in a hotspot. New Jersey ranks among the top states nationally in reported Lyme disease cases due in large part to the sizable rodent and deer populations in the state, since the ticks contract the disease from white-footed mice and feed, grow and reproduce on the state’s plentiful deer population.
Data collected by the New Jersey Department of Health in 2018 showed Monmouth and Morris counties with the most cases statewide, reporting 550 and 650 cases, respectively. Hunterdon and Warren counties reported the next most infections, with 444 and 393, respectively. We had a mild winter which means there are more ticks around.
Early recognition and treatment helps
The good news is that most people who are treated with the right antibiotics immediately following a bite or in the early stages of Lyme disease experience a rapid and complete recovery. Commonly used antibiotics include doxycycline, amoxicillin and cefuroxime axetil, and these are prescribed on an individual basis.
Several studies funded by the National Institutes of Health have shown that most people recover within a few weeks of antibiotic treatment. In a smaller number of cases, symptoms like fatigue and muscle aches persisted for more than 6 months.
How do I protect myself from getting bit by a tick?
Certain efforts can be made to protect yourself from possible tick bites, like avoiding wooded areas or areas of dense shrubs and leaves where ticks like to hide. You can also use tick repellents but be sure to use them appropriately! Repellents with DEET are to be used on clothing and exposed skin only. Repellents containing permethrin should be used on clothing, and clothing ONLY!
Understandably, it’s difficult to always avoid areas where ticks could be present. In these cases, consider wearing solid, light-colored clothing to make it easier to spot a tick on your clothes. Cover up as much as possible with long sleeves and a hat, and by tucking your pants into your socks to help prevent ticks from attaching to your skin. Once you return home, always check your ENTIRE body for ticks, remembering to check your scalp, behind your arms and in other areas where ticks might be able to conceal themselves.
What do I do if I find a tick on myself?
If you find a tick and it has not yet attached to your skin, remove it immediately. Do not squeeze or crush it barehanded. In the case that the tick has already attached to the skin, use tweezers to carefully grab it by the head, nearest the skin as you can, and pull steadily until the tick pulls out. Never attempt to burn, squeeze or cover a tick with Vaseline as these actions may force fluid from the tick into your skin. Once the tick is removed, disinfect the skin around the bite and the tweezers with alcohol and wash with soap and water.
To dispose of a tick, place it in a sealed container or plastic bag and put it in the trash. Since ticks can easily survive in water, flushing them down the toilet is not an effective solution.
Our centers can help with tick removal and prophylactic treatment. Read more here for Tick Bite Prophylaxis | Tick-borne Diseases | Ticks.
How do I know if I may have Lyme Disease?
One of the most common early telltale signs that a person has been infected with Lyme disease is the presence of an Erythema Migrans rash. This rash, which occurs in approximately 70-80% of infected persons, begins at the site of the bite anywhere between three to 30 days after an individual is bitten. On average the rash appears in about 7 days, and expands gradually. The rash may clear as it grows large, giving it the bull’s eye appearance that is often referenced. As noted, this rash does not appear on all infected persons, and does not always take on its classic characteristics. Other early signs and symptoms that you may have contracted Lyme disease after finding a tick on your person include fatigue, fever, headaches, neck stiffness, muscle aches and joint pain.
Left untreated Lyme disease can cause severe bodily harm, including arthritis, issues with the nervous system, facial palsy, heart palpitations and other heart issues, inflammation of the brain and spinal cord and more. For this reason, early intervention is of critical importance.
The CDC recommends a two-step process in testing for Lyme disease. Central Jersey Urgent Care and My InstaDoc utilizes a two-step process.
There are a few things to keep in mind regarding testing for Lyme disease. Since most Lyme disease tests are designed to detect antibodies the body has made in response to infection, and because antibodies can take several weeks to develop, recently infected patients may test negative at first. Therefore, follow-up testing is often required. This is something to discuss with your primary care provider.
In addition, antibodies can last in the blood for months or even years once an infection is gone, thus a test cannot be used to determine cure. Infection with other diseases, whether tickborne, viral, bacterial or autoimmune, can also result in false positive test results, further underscoring the need for follow-up testing and monitoring.
The warmer months are the perfect time to experience the wonderful outdoors New Jersey has to offer. And you should take full advantage! Just keep in mind that we do have high tick populations in the Garden State and taking extra precaution is always a best practice.
Categorised in: blog
This post was written by CJ Urgent Care of NJ