10 Essential Facts about Lyme disease

When I read that Avril Lavigne, singer with Sk8ter Boi has been in the news talking about her battle with Lyme disease, I realised that I knew as much about Lyme disease as I did the singer; i.e. zilch! So, I listened one track by Sk8ter Boi, and decided that it wasn’t bad at all, and then I decided to move on and look into Lyme disease in a bit more depth. If you knew as much about Lyme disease as I did, here are ten essential facts about Lyme disease to put you straight.

1. What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that is spread from animals to humans via the bites of tiny ticks that you can pick up in woodlands, heathland and from your garden. The ticks that are responsible for the disease can be found in Europe, the UK and North America, and there are approximately 2-3 thousand reported cases of Lyme disease in the UK every year.

2. What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?
The initial symptoms of Lyme disease are a distinctive, bullseye shaped, circular rash on the skin and flu like symptoms that can include fever, muscle pains, fatigue and headaches. Not everybody develops the rash though, so if you think you have been bitten by a tick and you develop flu like symptoms, you may have contracted Lyme disease.

3. The later symptoms of Lyme disease
If the disease is not treated, then more serious symptoms can develop after a few weeks, or even years, of being infected. These later symptoms can include numbness in the limbs, pain and swelling in the joints, heart problems, and a swelling of the membrane that surrounds the brain.

4. How is Lyme disease treated?
Once Lyme disease has been diagnosed, the patient will be given a course of antibiotics, usually lasting four weeks. In very severe cases, antibiotic injections may be administered. One of the issues with Lyme disease, as was the case with Avril Lavigne, is that it is often mistaken for other ailments and not treated properly quickly enough.

5. If you spot the tick early enough, you won’t catch Lyme disease
Lyme disease is not transmitted the moment a tick attaches itself to a human, it takes around thirty six hours for the disease t be transmitted. The best way to avoid contracting Lyme disease is to check your skin for ticks if you have been out in the countryside at all.

6. You don’t need to have been in contact with a deer to get ticks
The tick responsible for transmitting Lyme disease to people is called the deer tick, or the as Ixodes tick. These ticks do not live exclusively on deer, though, they can live on other animals as well. You don’t need to be anywhere near deer to pick up a deer tick.

7. Lyme disease is not a summer disease
Another misconception about Lyme disease is that you only contract in the summer. You can contract the disease at any time of year. The only reason that is more prevalent in the summer is that more people are going into woods and heathland, where the ticks are to be found.

8. You cannot catch Lyme disease from another person
There is no evidence that you can contract Lyme disease any other way than being bitten by a tick. You could, however, easily pick up a tick from your dog. So, if Fido has been rolling around in the grass, it would be worth checking him for ticks, before you let him back in the house.

9. There is no vaccine for Lyme disease
There did use to be a Lyme disease vaccine available, but it was discontinued due to lack of demand. The best way to avoid contracting Lyme disease is to stay out of the bushes and long undergrowth and check yourself for ticks when you get home from a trip to the countryside.

10. You don’t need to go to the back of beyond to contract Lyme disease
Although the ticks are more prevalent in the countryside, they can be found in any green space, including city parks. Lyme disease infected ticks have been found in New York’s’ Central Park and in parks in San Francisco.

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