What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is a tick-borne illness that affects the lives of millions each year. It’s caused by a spirochete-a corkscrew-shaped bacterium called Borrelia Burgdorferi. The infection rate is rising. The CDC estimates that in the U.S. Lyme Disease infects over 300,000 people each year.
Lyme disease is called “The Great Imitator” because its symptoms mimic many other diseases. It can affect any system of the body, including the brain and nervous system, muscles and joints, and the heart.
How is it contracted?
People get Lyme from the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. Nymphal or immature ticks that are about the size of a poppy seed and cause the most infections in humans. Because they are so tiny and their bite is painless, many people do not even realize they have been bitten. Adult ticks also transmit the disease.
Once a tick has attached, if undisturbed it may feed for several days. The longer it stays attached, the more likely it will transmit the Lyme bacteria and other harmful infections into your bloodstream.
There is a lot of debate in the medical field about the time frame Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses can transmit into a person’s system. If you can avoid tick bites entirely, or remove a tick that has bitten you right away, you can protect yourself from this debilitating disease. The sooner you remove the tick, the better off you will be.
Where is it contracted?
Ticks live in the woods and grassy areas, including backyards and parks. They thrive in dark, humid places.
While the disease is most prevalent in the Northeast and upper Midwest, the ticks that carry Lyme disease are spreading, and now live in almost half of our nation’s counties — including places in the South, and on the West Coast. Documented infection rates have increased significantly 340% between 1993-2013 (CDC).
Outside of the U.S., ticks carry the disease in forested areas on Asia, northwestern, central and Eastern Europe, according to the World Health Organization.
When are ticks active?
- April-May: The beginning of tick season.
- June-July: Peak season for nymphs and the highest risk time to become infected.
- August: early September – Risk may decrease because this is when ticks molt into adults.
- Late September – October: Peak season for adult ticks and a high-risk time for infection.
- Colder months: This is the lowest risk time of the year. Deer ticks are inactive below 35 degrees. Unfortunately, they may seek a host in places where the sun has melted snow and warmed leaf litter.