Lyme disease is a bacterial infection caused by the bite of a deer tick ( Ixodes scapularis) or a western black legged tick (Ixodes pacificus) that is infected with Lyme disease. Young ticks can be as small as a pinhead and the adult ticks are only slightly larger.
About 80% of the people treated for Lyme disease have a skin rash that appears within 3-32 days after the tick bite. The rash begins as a small red area at the site of the bite that gradually enlarges; leaving a clear center with an outer ring that is inflamed (swollen). Flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, headache, fatigue (drowsiness), muscle and joint pain, swollen lymph nodes and stiff neck may accompany the rash. If left untreated, Lyme disease may lead to joint, heart and nervous system problems.
Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics. Symptoms of Lyme disease may continue or recur, making additional antibiotic treatment necessary.
How can Lyme disease be prevented? Preventing the attachment and feeding of ticks through personal protection measures as follows can prevent Lyme disease. Wear light-colored long pants with cuffs tucked into sock and long sleeves when walking in grassy or wooded areas. It is easier to spot ticks on light-colored clothing. Put insect repellent containing DEET on clothing, socks, and shoes and exposed skin. Permethrin (Permanone) will keep ticks off clothes and shoes but should not be applied directly to skin. Check every 2 hours for ticks on clothes or exposed skin. After returning from the grassy or wooded area, brush off clothing and body. Inspect clothes and body for ticks, particularly in the areas of the groin, back of neck and knees, and armpits. Take a hot shower and wash clothing at a high temperature.
To remove a tick, use tweezers to firmly grip its body close to the skin and pull it straight out. If tweezers are not available, one can remove the tick by grasping the tick close to the skin with a paper towel with one's fingers. Fluids from the tick can transmit infection. Do not squash or squeeze the tick during removal. Immediately wash with soap and hot water all tick bitten areas after the tick is removed. If a rash or fever appears within the next several days or weeks, see a health care provider and inform them of the tick attachment.
Yes, watch for signs of lameness in the pet. If Lyme disease is suspected, call the veterinarian. Check all pets for ticks if they have been in grassy or wooded areas, especially around the eyes and ears. Use the same precautions and methods for removing ticks from animals that are used when removing them from a person.