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Lyme disease by Gina Bloomburg

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Lyme disease affects approximately 16,000 people each year in the United States alone, as reported by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The disease was not known in the United States until 1977, when a group of children in Lyme, Connecticut were diagnosed with symptoms resembling arthritis, although there is some indication that it was discovered in Germany in 1883. Cases of Lyme disease have been reported in almost every state; however, this disease is primarily seen in the Northeastern, Mid-Atlantic, Central and Western regions of the country. Worldwide, Lyme disease has been present in China, Japan, and other European countries.

Borrelia burgdorferi is the bacteria that causes Lyme disease and is spread to humans through the bite of an infected black-legged tick (also known as the deer tick, Ixodes scapularis). In the Western region of the country, the scientific name for the black-legged tick is Ixodes pacificus.

As we all know, ticks enjoy attaching to humans on just about any part of our bodies, but usually, they attach in places that are hard to see, such as the head, under the arm, groin, or the back of the legs. For the adult black-legged tick to pass on the bacteria, it has to be implanted for at least 36-48 hours. Most people will find an adult tick within that time, which is why people do not usually become infected by the adult black-legged tick.

The bacteria, in most cases, are transmitted by the attachment of an immature tick, called a nymph. The typical tick takes two years to complete its life cycle. The eggs hatch into larvae in the spring, and the larvae then feed on birds, mice, deer, etc. until they become dormant in the fall. They molt into nymphs the following spring, and if infected, will then pass the bacteria on to humans. The Blacklegged nymph feeds in the spring and summer months in the United States when most of the nation is enjoying the outdoors. Nymphs are very small, 2 mm or less, which is why most people do not discover them until it is too late, and they are showing symptoms. Also, because nymphs are so small, most people do not have any knowledge of ever being bitten by a tick. This is why Lyme disease can be so hard to diagnose.

Another reason Lyme disease can be hard to diagnose is that the most common symptoms resemble those of the typical cold or flu; fatigue, headache, fever, muscle aches and joint pain, and swollen lymph nodes. However, Lyme disease will always begin with a circular red rash that looks like a bull’s eye target, along with the aforementioned symptoms.

If left untreated, Lyme disease can progress to much more serious conditions, and can affect other organs and systems of the human body; the heart, joints, and most importantly, the nervous system. In its later stages, Lyme disease can progress to Bell’s Palsy; a partial paralysis of the face, or meningitis; a swelling condition of the membranes surrounding the brain.

If caught early enough, Lyme disease can be easily treated with an antibiotic; therefore it is imperative that one thoroughly inspect those areas of the body where ticks like to attach, especially if you live or play in heavily wooded areas.



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CDC-Centers for Disease Control

NIH- National Institute of Health










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