Cowleys Guide to Lyme Disease

Friday, May 8th, 2015 by Bill Cowley


What is Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted by infected black-legged ticks that carry the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. Those infected often display flu-like symptoms including fever, chills, headaches, fatigue, muscle aches, and joint pain. Also, it is common to develop a bulls-eye rash where bitten; however, not everyone develops this tell-tale rash.  If you have been outdoors, especially if you aware of a tick bite, and you are experiencing early general symptoms, seek immediate medical assistance. If left untreated, the infection can spread to the heart, joints, and nervous system. Moreover, even if treated for Lyme Disease with antibiotics, some patients will continue to have lingering symptoms. This condition is known as Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome (PTLDS), also known as chronic Lyme disease.

Do I need to worry about Lyme Disease in New Jersey?

Unfortunately, yes. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), New Jersey ranked second in the country with the highest confirmed cases of Lyme disease. 

How can I prevent Lyme disease?

Illustration of BLAST

Since deer ticks are the vectors of Lyme disease, it is important to stop deer ticks from using humans or pets as hosts. If the deer tick is infected, it must be attached for at least twenty-four hours before it transmits Lyme disease, so it is important for ticks to be removed quickly. If you are planning to go into a wooded area, wear long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. The shirt should be tucked into the pants and the pants should be tucked into the socks to make it more difficult for ticks to find open skin. Clothing should be light-colored so that ticks can be easily seen on the clothing.

If ticks have the right environment they can live in lawns and can attach themselves to humans or pets while they are simply enjoying their own backyard. Outside of a wooded setting, ticks are most often found in yards that contain high grass, trees, and shrubs. If a yard backs up to a brushy or wooded area,  keep the lawn area set back from the woods by at least eight feet. This may be done by placing a barrier of wood chips, gravel or mulch between grassy edges and tick-prone zones. Ticks prefer moist areas like leaf litter at the edge of woods, making spring and fall leaf cleanup very important.

The best preventative strategy is to keep lawns mowed regularly in order to make an area inhospitable to ticks. Also, as added insurance against dangerous ticks in your backyard, consider having a pest control company treat the lawn perimeter and high vegetation areas or wooded areas of the lawn.

After hiking, caring for the lawn and garden or spending time outdoors always check clothing thoroughly and immediately wash and dry any clothing worn at the highest temperature possible to avoid bringing ticks indoors. The single best way to prevent Lyme disease is to do tick checks daily after spending time outdoors. Ticks must be on a person for at least twenty-four hours in order for them to transmit the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. Therefore, checking yourself and your family daily can help to catch ticks early and prevent the transmission of disease.

If ticks are embedded on a person, proper removal can decrease the chance of the tick transmitting Lyme disease. Always follow the CDC’s Guidelines for proper tick removal.  After a tick bites, save the tick to have it tested for the Lyme disease organism. Place the tick into a small vial or zip-lock baggie and send it to one of the local New Jersey tick testing services.

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