Lyme disease is a bacterial disease that sometimes has long-term effects--especially if the disease goes unrecognized and untreated initially. Unfortunately, the ticks that transmit this disease can attach to a human, feed for several days and then fall off without the person knowing, due to the tick’s size. Therefore, when symptoms occur, they are assumed to be symptoms of a cold or flu virus, rather than this bacterial disease.
According to the Illinois Department of Public Health and the CDC, the deer tick (various species of the black-legged tick) is the type of tick that commonly transmits Lyme disease.
Deer ticks are small when not engorged with blood--they are much smaller than the dog tick in any stage. The ticks may look like a freckle or speck of dirt and often do not cause any pain; therefore, these ticks may go unnoticed on the body. Black-legged ticks are attracted to many warm-blooded mammals--not just deer--but are commonly found on deer.
Infected ticks spread disease when they feast on the victim’s blood. The bacterium responsible for Lyme disease is called borrelia burgdorferi, according to the CDC.
Lyme disease occurs in most parts of the world. In the United States, the east coast states, including New York and New Jersey, report the most cases; however, the disease is present in many other states. Any area that is a good habitat for the black-legged ticks (grassy or wooded, moist and mild) can experience Lyme disease outbreaks. According to michigan.gov, ticks are more commonly acquired during mildly warm seasons (spring and the mild parts of the summer).
Some people infected with the disease have no symptoms--or symptoms do not appear for months or years after the tick bite. Common symptoms are joint aches, fever and general malaise. Some people experience the notorious bulls-eye rash, but this does not always occur--therefore, just because you do not develop this rash does not mean you have not acquired the disease.
Prevent tick bites by preventing a tick’s access to your skin: wear long shirts, pants, socks and shoes. Check yourself (and pets) for ticks all over immediately after spending time outdoors in wooded or grassy areas.
If your doctor believes you have contracted Lyme disease, she may prescribe antibiotics. For joint pain, over the counter anti-inflammatory medicines, or steroids, may be recommended.
Remove ticks as soon as they are spotted. The longer the tick is allowed to remain on the body, the higher the chance of disease transmission. Use tweezers or special tick removal tools--you can buy these at some stores that sell outdoor/camping supplies--to carefully extract the tick. Try to get the whole tick at once without squeezing the blood out (consider this blood as potentially infected with harmful bacteria).