Lyme's Disease ~ Tick Risk!

Category: Lyme's Disease Published on Wednesday, 25 June 2008 Written by Yong Tsai, MD

Dealing with a complex, potentially life-altering disease such as Lyme’s is not to be downplayed, but on the other hand, not to create panic. Victims infected by a contaminated Ixodes scapularis (deer tick) and Ixodes pacificus (Western black-legged tick) can suffer from short-lived skin rash, headache, muscle and joint pain to treatment-resistant chronic arthritis and neurological disorder for months to several years.

However, before worrying about Lyme’s disease ( LD), it is important to assess your risks. First, what are your chances of being bitten by a deer tick: do you live or play in a Lyme’s disease endemic area, do you have a high risk outdoor occupation or activities, do you use tick repellant, or do you perform ”tick checks.” And second, do you live or frequent in a Lyme’s disease prevalent area: has there been many cases of Lyme’s disease reported or is your area considered high risk?

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Lyme’s disease has been reported in every state except for Montana. However, geographical dominance concentrates the incidence of Lyme’s disease along the upper east coast and inland, as well as in the upper Midwest, Northern California, and Oregon largely due to an overabundance of white-footed mice and white-tailed deer, both preferred hosts. The National Lyme’s disease risk map classes states and regions as either “High,” (4329 cases reported, New York in 2000), “Moderate,” or “Minimal” risk, Florida being a “Low” risk area, (54 cases reported in 2000).

The population density and percentage of infected ticks that can transmit LD vary markedly in different areas. Throughout their four life-stages, from egg, larva, nymph, to adult, Ixode ticks require a “blood meal” to progress from stage to stage. Nymphs, responsible for nearly 90% of Lyme’s disease cases caused by deer ticks, are small, in great abundance, and their peak feeding stage coincides with spring and increase human outdoor activity. Adult peak feeding occurs in September to November.

Several studies have shown that an infected tick normally cannot begin spirochete transmission until host-attachment has lasted 24-48 hours. Generally, a non-engorged embedded tick has not been attached long enough to transmit the LD spirochete.

Can attachment for less than 24 hours result in transmission? Everything is possible. However, from my readings, it seems unlikely. What is truly important is knowing there is a window of opportunity to remove a possibly infected tick from our body, if it happens.

To decrease your risks of becoming infected with the Lyme’s disease causing bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi, the facts remain: decrease your exposure to tick infested and especially Lyme’s disease prevalent areas, wear protective clothing and tick repellent, remove the tick in its entirety as soon as possible, monitor the area for possible rash, and inform your physician of the tick bite.

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