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Joanne S. Porter RN, CEN

Lyme Facts
H ikers, campers,outdoorsmen/women beware of a "bulls-eye rash" and flu-like symptoms. You may be carrying the tick-born disease (Borrelia burgdorferi) ,which is carried by the white-tailed deer and can be found in more than 20 of the United States. Along with deer population, the deer tick can be found from Massachusetts to Virginia,Wisconsin, Minnesota, parts of California, Oregon,Utah, and Nevada. The deer tick also feeds on small mammals such as mice. It can be as tiny as a poppy seed in its nymph (baby) stage; which is most likely the stage that it will be carrying the bacteria, thus transmitting Lyme disease to humans and our household pets. The tick's life-cycle is 2 years and in this time it will eat three blood meals. It ingests contaminated blood in one meal, then transmits disease with its second meal.

     Early detection is essential; since untreated Lyme disease can mimic other ailments. It is treated with antibiotics and tick is removed. In the first stage- 4 to 20 days after bite, you will see a bulls-eye rash 2-3 inches in diameter, headache, fatigue, body aches and joint pain. In the second stage- severe arthritis is evident, possible paralysis may occur, as well as the development of cardiac problems due to the disease attacking the heart muscle. A Lyme antibody test can be performed with a simple blood test at the ER or at your doctor's office; however it usually takes a couple of days to get results. Later ,or third stage symptoms are very serious; such as: permanent brain damage, heart damage, and recurring arthritis.

     Control of Lyme disease is primarily dependent on control of deer tick bites. The disease was so out of control in Great Island, Massachusetts that an entire 52 herd of deer was killed to try to control the incidence there. There has been some good results whereby, European wasps have been released into tick-infested areas, thus creating a biological extermination of deer ticks.

     Precautions to take:

     When removing tick, do not crush or squeeze, as toxins or viruses can be released into the person.

     Apply small amount of gasoline, kerosene, nail polish or mineral oil to tick prior to removal, then wait 10 minutes for disengagement.

     Prevent exposure when hiking, camping, walking in wooded areas by wearing protective clothing, including long-sleeve shirts and light colors (better to visualize). Avoid sandals, going barefoot, avoid shorts. Tuck pantlegs into socks or boots.

     Use tick repellents if outdoors frequently. Apply to clothing and not to skin, since they can be toxic as well.

     Inspect areas on body with heavy hair growth. Use scotch tape around your hand to remove in areas around ankles or other exposed areas.

     Avoid areas that are highly infested with deer ticks!

     Copyright © 1998 by Joanne S. Porter RN, CEN

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