Q: Do we need to be concerned about Lyme disease in this area? I thought it affected the northeast and midwest.
A: Statistics show that over the past few years, Lyme disease is showing up more often in Northern Virginia and Maryland than it did before. In addition, Lyme disease is increasingly affecting the suburbs.
Q: What is Lyme Disease?
A: In recent years, Lyme Disease has received a lot of press. Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria that is transmitted by a certain type of tick. Not all ticks transmit Lyme disease: the offender is the deer tick, which is about the size of a poppy seed.
Q: How long does the tick have to be attached to transmit the disease?
A: Transmission of lyme disease usually occurs after the tick has been attached to the skin for more than 24 hours.
Q: What time of year would you expect to see Lyme disease?
A: Most human cases of Lyme disease in North America occur between May and August.
Q: How can you tell if you have Lyme disease?
A: Eighty percent of the time, a person will develop a distinct rash three to 30 days after the bite. The rash is usually circular with an outer red margin and a clear center area. Symptoms progress to fever, headache, overwhelming fatigue, malaise, painful muscles and joints, and rashes. If untreated, Lyme disease can cause neurologic and cardiac problems and arthritis.
Q: Is there a blood test?
A: Blood testing can confirm the diagnosis of Lyme disease, but it is important to know that the test may not detect antibodies until four to six weeks after the initial infection.
Q: How can I protect myself?
A: Since ticks like to "hang out" on tall grasses and brush, one good way to protect yourself is to check your hair, skin, and clothes frequently for ticks while you are outside, and especially after you get home. Wearing light colored clothes helps you see ticks better. Wearing a long sleeved shirt and long pants can also be helpful. Apply an insect repellant that contains DEET, and reapply often following the package directions. For extra protection, you can apply an insect repellant called permethrin directly to your clothes. After you get home, take your clothes off carefully and check for ticks that may be on them. Finally, take a warm shower with lots of soap and lather and put on clean clothes.
Q: What's the best way to remove a tick if it has attached?
A: Use a pair of tweezers, firmly grasp the tick as close to the person's skin as possible and use firm, steady pressure to pull it out. Make a note of the date, and watch the site carefully over the next three to six weeks.
Q: Why not treat with antibiotics "just in case?"
A: Treating with antibiotics after a tick bite has not proven to be helpful. Studies have shown that the actual incidence of infection is low since not all of the ticks carry the bacteria. Additionally, the antibiotics used to treat lyme disease are potent and should be used sparingly.
Q:Is there a vaccine available?
A: Currently there is no vaccine available. A vaccine called LYMErix, made by SmithKline Beecham, is no longer available.
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