Virginia's Lyme Disease Season is in Full Swing

May 27, 2012

As we rush outdoors to soak in the summer sunshine, consider taking steps to fend off an almost invisible danger — tiny ticks carrying Lyme disease. In Virginia, the number of Lyme disease cases has risen every year since 2000. The disease is caused by a spirochetal bacteria, which can be transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected deer tick. “The tick can be as small as a poppy seed and the bite is usually painless; most individuals do not know they have been bitten. Tam Ly, M.D., infectious disease specialist with Fauquier Health, said, “Recognizing the signs and symptoms of Lyme disease may help detect and treat it earlier, avoiding the serious complications that can appear during the later stages of the disease.”


Symptoms
This painless bite can produce severe and chronic symptoms that affect the brain, nerves, eyes, joints and heart. Although symptoms can vary from person to person, here are some that can occur over several months after contact with an infected tick:
• A bull’s-eye type rash may appear one to three weeks after exposure.
• A flu-like illness with fatigue, chills, fever, headache, swollen lymph nodes, heart
palpitations and dizziness. In some cases, these may be the only symptoms of infection, and they may come and go.
• Bell's palsy, which is the loss of muscle tone on one or both sides of the face.
• Meningitis, which involves severe headaches, neck stiffness and sensitivity to light.

Diagnosis and Treatment
Dr. Ly explained that, “During the early stages of the disease, your doctor will consider your symptoms, exposure and medical history to determine whether you have Lyme disease. In the later stages of the disease, laboratory tests can confirm Lyme disease, although they are not a good way to test whether the disease has been cured. Antibiotics are used to treat Lyme disease, and the earlier they are started, the better.”

Protect Yourself and Your Family from Lyme Disease
• Use insect repellents with 20 to 30 percent DEET. Apply to exposed skin areas and clothing. Permethrin, another insect repellent, can be used on clothing only, not on skin.
• Wear long pants, long sleeves and long socks to keep ticks off your skin. Tuck pant legs into socks or boots and tuck shirts into pants.
• Wear light-colored clothing to help spot ticks.
• Ticks that transmit Lyme disease thrive in humid, wooded areas. Identify and stay away from potential danger zones.
• Mow the lawn frequently and clear leaf litter, tall grasses and brush around the home.
Ticks die quickly in sunny, dry environments.
• Do a full-body tick check at the end of every day, especially if you and your family are spending a lot of time outdoors during the summer months. If you do find a tick, remove the tick promptly with tweezers, not with your fingers, by gently pulling it straight out. Be careful not to squeeze the tick while removing it. Don’t forget to check your pets, especially dogs, before you bring them into the house.


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