Lyme Disease Myths – 9 Things You Should Know About the Tick-Borne Disease
Warm spring weather promises lots of fun outdoor activities, but increased time outside also ups our risk for encounters with some of nature’s peskier pests.
One such problematic insect is the tick, and its most commonly associated illness, Lyme disease. There were nearly 30,000 confirmed cases of the tick-borne disease in 2009, and rates are on the rise in northern states, according to recent research.
While most outdoorsy types know that tick bites can cause Lyme disease and that ticks are most frequently encountered in tall grasses and wooded areas, many people’s knowledge of Lyme disease ends there. That’s why, in honor of Lyme Disease Awareness Month, we’d like to clear up a few of the following Lyme disease myths:
Myth: All Ticks Carry Lyme Disease
Fact: There are a number of types of ticks, but only blacklegged ticks (commonly called deer ticks) carry the bacterium that causes Lyme disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Lone star ticks, the American dog tick, the Rocky Mountain wood tick and the brown dog tick do not transmit the disease.
Myth: All Deer Tick Bites Result In Lyme Disease
Fact: First of all, not all deer ticks are infected with the Lyme disease bacterium. “In areas where [Lyme disease] is very common, one out of ever four or five ticks might be infected,” says Paul Mead, M.D., MPH, chief of epidemiology and surveillance activity at the CDC. “In other areas where it’s much rarer, that may be more like one in 100.”
Second, if a tick is removed within 24 hours of biting, risk of infection drops dramatically. “It’s important to take a definitive step quickly,” says Mead. “If you look for ticks every day and — [if you] find them — remove them, you aren’t likely to get Lyme disease.”
Myth: The Best Way To Remove A Tick Is To Burn It
Fact: Folk remedies like burning the tick off of your skin or suffocating it with nail polish just prolong the window of time for that bugger to infect you. Instead, use tweezers to remove the offending insect as quickly as possible. Mead explains that the CDC recommends grasping the tick with the tweezers as close to the skin as possible, then pulling upward without twisting. Be sure to clean the area after — and your hands!
Myth: You Only Have Lyme Disease If You Have The Telltale Bull’s Eye Rash
Fact: While it is a very common sign of Lyme disease, and perhaps the most obvious one, not everyone develops the characteristic rash. It shows up in about 80 to 90 percent of people, according to the American Lyme Disease Foundation (ALDF), and usually appears as a red blotch with a red ring emanating from the site of the tick bite. It may be warm to the touch but usually isn’t itchy or painful. If you’ve been bitten by a tick and notice other possible symptoms, like fevers, headaches and muscle pain, consult a doctor as soon as possible.
However, it’s not unheard of for someone not to develop the rash — or to simply not see it, according to Mead, especially if it’s somewhere hidden like the scalp. “The symptoms sound like flu symptoms, but they occur in the late spring and early summer,” Mead says. “If you get those symptoms and live in an area where Lyme disease is common, you may want to consider that possibility.”
The longer Lyme disease goes undiagnosed and, therefore, untreated, the more severe the symptoms can become. Untreated infection can cause a paralysis to facial muscles called Bell’s palsy, irregular heartbeats, arthritis and short-term memory problems, says Mead.
Myth: There Is No Cure For Lyme Disease
Fact: When treated with antibiotics in the early stages of the disease, Lyme disappears in almost all people — and quickly, too. But in a small number of people, symptoms like muscle and joint pain or memory problems persist. Researchers are currently trying to determine how long a person should be treated with antibiotics in these instances of what is sometimes referred to as “chronic lyme disease,” according to the National Institutes of Health.
Experts don’t know the exact cause of this cluster of lingering symptoms, more properly called post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome, Mead explains. There is ongoing debate among experts as to whether or not ongoing symptoms reflect continuing infection or “whether it is a post-infectious complication,” he says. Imagine, he explains, a person who has broken his leg. If it doesn’t heal right, it’s not that it’s still broken, but it may continue to cause pain or weakness. So too might a prior Lyme infection cause continuing discomfort. Studies have shown, however, that further treatment with antibiotics has no benefit — and can be harmful.
Myth: A Blood Test Is The Best Way To Diagnose Lyme Disease
Fact: It depends on how long after a tick bite we’re talking about, says Mead. “The most widely-used test for Lyme disease doesn’t test for the organism itself, but for antibodies that your immune system makes,” he says. “When you are first infected, your body hasn’t had time to make those antibodies, and you can test negative in the early stages of the disease.”
If, however, someone has been infected for months or even years without knowing it, — say they go to a doctor for symptoms of arthritis and don’t even recall having a summer fever the year before — “then the test is quite good for detecting infection,” he says.
Myth: You Can Get Lyme Disease Everywhere In The U.S.
Fact: More than 97 percent of all cases of Lyme disease occur in the northeastern and north-central parts of the country, says Mead. Your chances of being bitten by an infected tick outside of those regions are very small. While there have indeed been reported cases in nearly all 50 states, Lyme disease is reported by state of residence, not necessarily the state of infection. A child from Wyoming who spends the summer in Pennsylvania with Grandma and comes down with Lyme disease will count as a reported case for Wyoming, says Mead, even though her chances of getting Lyme in her homestate are tiny.
Myth: Lyme Disease Can Spread Between People
Fact: From time to time you do see a husband and a wife, for example, who both come down with Lyme disease around the same time, says Mead, but there’s no solid evidence to support the idea that one of them passed it to the other. It’s much more likely that they were both bitten by ticks, especially since young ticks can be so small, he says.
Myth: You Can Get Lyme Disease From A Pet
Fact: Fido and Fluffy can get Lyme disease, but there is no evidence to suggest pets can spread the disease to humans. However, “pets are important vehicles for ticks to get into the household and come into contact with humans,” Mead says. Pet owners may want to consider tick control powders, sprays, collars or other products for their furry friends.
Via HUFF POST
They are waiting in the grass, weeds, and the trees. Waiting for people and their pets to walk by so they can hitch a ride and steal a meal.
As the weather warms up, ticks and mosquitoes get busy biting people and animals and in the process, sometimes transmitting illness.
A tick bite can spread Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease, tularemia and ehrlichiosis, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. The tickborne diseases can cause mild symptoms, severe infections requiring hospitalization and in some cases, death.
Last year in Illinois, there were 50 cases of ehrlichiosis, four cases of tularemia, 204 cases of Lyme disease and 151 cases of Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
One person died after being bitten by a tick.
“Diagnosing tickborne illness is based largely on the patient’s knowledge that they’ve been bitten by a tick and the signs and symptoms of illness,” said Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck. “While antibiotics can treat illnesses due to tick bites, it’s best to avoid tick bites altogether by taking some simple precautions.”
The Illinois Department of Public Health has made the following recommendations to avoid tick bites:
- Walk in the center of trails so weeds do not brush against you.
- Use repellent that contains 20 percent to 30 percent DEET on exposed skin. Always follow product instructions.
- Use products that contain permethrin to treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants (especially the cuffs), socks and tents. Or look for clothing pre-treated with permethrin.
- Tuck long pants into your socks and boots. Wearing light-colored pants makes ticks easier to see.
- In areas where there are ticks, check yourself, children and other family members every two to three hours for ticks, especially the ears, hair, neck, legs and between the toes.
- If you let your pets outdoors, check them often for ticks. Ticks can “hitch a ride” on your pets, but fall off in your home before they feed. Tick collars, sprays, shampoos, or monthly top spot medications help protect against ticks.
- If you do find a tick, on yourself, others or pets, remove it promptly. The best way to remove a tick is to grasp it with fine-point tweezers as close to the skin as possible and gently, but firmly, pull it straight out. Do not twist or jerk the tick. Wash the bite area and your hands thoroughly with soap and water and apply an antiseptic to the bite site.
- If an individual experiences a rash that looks like a bulls-eye or a rash anywhere on the body within two weeks of a tick bite, call a doctor. A doctor should also be notified if an individual experienced unexplained illness accompanied by a fever within two weeks of a tick bite.
WEST NILE VIRUS
The Culex, or house mosquito, carries West Nile Virus or St. Louis encephalitis and, due to the wet, warm weather, is out in swarms. It breeds in warm, stagnant water and due to the increase in mosquito populations, the St. Clair County Health Department will begin its annual testing for West Nile Virus May 20 to monitor the virus’ activity.
St. Clair County is asking the public to report all dead perching birds such as crows, blue jays, grackles, starlings, sparrows, finches, robins, cardinals, flycatchers, swallows, catbirds, mockingbirds, warblers and wrens to the St. Clair County Health Department. The birds are sentinels of West Nile Virus activity.
Residents can report the dead birds by calling 233-7769 and the health department will determine whether the birds should be collected for testing. Residents in Centreville, Canteen, Stites and East St. Louis townships should call the East Side Health District at 271-8722 to report dead birds.
Most people infected with West Nile Virus exhibit no symptoms and feel no illness, however, some may become ill 3 to 15 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Symptoms may be mild, such as fever, headache and body aches. In some, particularly people over 50, the risk of severe disease is higher and they may experience headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, convulsions, muscle weakness, paralysis, and rarely, death.
The best way to prevent West Nile Virus infection is by reducing the number of mosquitoes by eliminating their breeding grounds and avoiding bites by wearing protective clothing, using mosquito repellent, assuring door and window screens are tight fitting and in good repair and avoiding places and times when mosquitoes bite, generally dawn and dusk.
More information about West Nile Virus and preventative measures can be found at the St. Clair County Health Department website at http://www.health.co.st-clair.il.us.
Ant Control Tips:Guest Post from our Friends at Bug Busters USA
There are more than 700 species of ants in the United States. Some of the most common include argentine, carpenter, odorous house, pavement and red imported fire ants.
All ants are social insects that live in colonies. They can be identified by their three distinct body regions: head, thorax, and abdomen. However, the biology and habits of each ant species is different and understanding these differences is necessary to effectively control an infestation.
WHERE AND WHEN ARE YOU MOST LIKELY TO ENCOUNTER ANTS?
It depends on the species, but ants are commonly attracted to the food in a kitchen, especially sweets and protein-containing substances. Ants are most often found on floors, countertops and in food items. Some species prefer to build nests in soil – such as landscaping – or cracks in concrete on your driveway, walkway or in your garage. Carpenter ants build nests in wood. Ants are typically found indoors the spring and summer months as they search for food.
SHOULD HOMEOWNERS/RESIDENTS BE CONCERNED IF THEY FIND ANTS IN THEIR HOME?
Most species of ants are considered ‘nuisance pests,’ meaning that they don’t pose a significant threat to health or property, but are an annoyance when found indoors. In fact, ants are the number one nuisance pest in the United States.
Some species of ants, however, can pose threats to health and property. Carpenter ants, for example, excavate wood in order to build their nests, which can cause extensive damage to a structure. Fire ants, on the other hand, sting when threatened, resulting in painful welts that can be dangerous to allergic persons. These species should always be handled by a professional.
Regardless of the species all ants can contaminate food sources and small infestations can grow quickly, so any sign of an infestation should be dealt with promptly.
WHAT IS THE MOST EFFECTIVE TYPE OF ANT TREATMENT AND HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
A trained and licensed pest professional is the best person to make a recommendation based on the proper identification of a particular ant species and the threats they could pose to health and property. Also, homeowners may have a preference as to which treatment is used, so it is important that they have a detailed conversation with their pest control company. The cost of the treatments can vary depending on the size of the infestation and the property being treated.
WHAT CAN A HOMEOWNER DO TO CONTROL ANT INFESTATIONS?
There are as many ways to control ants as there are species of ants! Different species eat different things – making it almost impossible to inspect a single area and control the ant population. The best strategy homeowners can employ when attempting to control ants is to clean, clean, clean. Wipe down counters, regularly remove garbage, clean up grease spills, rinse and remove empty soda cans or other recyclables and mop/sweep the floors. Homeowners should also keep food in sealed containers and keep pet food/water dishes clean. Outside the home, eliminate sources of moisture or standing water such as birdbaths or kiddie pools. Finally, seal cracks and holes around the home to close entry points.
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