Deer Ticks and Lyme Disease: What You Need to Know

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Are there any effective treatments for Lyme disease?

Deer Ticks & Lyme Disease: What You Need to Know

Deer ticks, also known as blacklegged ticks, are a common and dangerous vector for numerous diseases, chief among them the infectious illness Lyme disease. Lyme disease is the most commonly reported illness transmitted by ticks in the US, and is highly depending on the location and particular species of tick involved. Deer ticks are known to be particularly concerning and difficult to manage, due to the fact they they attach to and remain on the host skin for as long as an hour in order to feed on them, facilitating the transmission of the illness.

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What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection caused by the spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi. It is a multisystemic illness involving the skin, joint, and nervous systems, although any organ system may be involved. It was first discovered in Lyme, Connecticut in 1975 and is currently the most reported vector-borne illness in the United States. Lyme Disease has a wide range of symptoms, from a mild skin rash to joint pain and neurological symptoms. It is also highly endemic in certain areas of the world, particularly in North America, Europe and certain parts of Asia.

How to Avoid Getting Lyme Disease

The best way to avoid getting Lyme disease is to reduce your exposure to deer ticks. This includes checking yourself, your children and your four-legged family members for ticks after any outdoor activities or travel, and also taking precautions when in high-risk tick habitats. It's important to wear long-sleeved lightweight clothing that is light in color, and avoid walking through tall grasses and brush. Additionally, use insect repellent on clothing and exposed skin that contains DEET or other EPA-registered agents, and wear enclosed shoes and socks.

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How to Identify and Remove a Deer Tick

If you do find a tick on your skin, it must be removed with a gentle but firm pulling motion. If a tick is found attached to the skin, it's important to not to panic, as there is still a low chance of getting Lyme disease from a single tick. Be sure to use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the head of the tick close to the skin, and then pull straight away from the skin with steady and even pressure. To be extra safe, you can use rubbing alcohol to disinfect the skin after the tick is removed.

The Health Risks of Lyme Disease

Lyme disease left untreated can have serious long-term health effects, including chronic joint and nervous system issues, and can even cause cognitive decline or depression. If Lyme disease is caught early, it can be treated with antibiotics, but if left untreated it can cause severe health problems and even death. If you think you may have been exposed to a deer tick and are showing symptoms of Lyme disease, it's important to seek medical care as soon as possible.

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In summary, Lyme disease is a serious and potentially life-threatening illness that is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is spread by deer ticks. It is important to be aware of the potential for tick bites when going outdoors, and to take preventative measures to reduce the likelihood of being infected. If you find a tick on your skin, properly remove it, watch for symptoms and seek medical care if signs of infection develop.