Lyme Disease and Ticks

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Lyme disease is an infectious disease caused by a bacterium known as a spirochete. People get Lyme disease when a tick infected with the Lyme disease bacterium attaches and feeds on them. Lyme disease has been reported from many areas of the country, including California.

The western blacklegged tick transmits the bacteria that causes Lyme disease to humans in California. The tick has three life stages: larva, nymph, and adult. The larvae and nymphs feed on the blood of small rodents, rabbits, lizards, birds, and occasionally large mammals. Adults feed on the blood of large mammals, principally deer.

Lyme disease can affect many body systems. Lyme disease can start as a mild flu-like illness and, over time, develop into severe chronic health problems. The early stages of the disease can include a red, expanding skin rash, chills and fever, headache, swollen lymph nodes, muscle and joint pain, weakness of some muscles in the face and heart irregularities.

If left untreated, arthritis or nervous system signs can develop in some Lyme disease patients. Arthritis is most likely to appear as bouts of pain and swelling, usually in one or more large joints, especially the knees. Nervous system abnormalities can include numbness, tingling, or pain in the arms and legs, or difficulties in memory and the ability to concentrate.

Lyme disease can be successfully treated with antibiotics, especially in the early stages. The potential for long-term complications increases if the disease progresses untreated.

What can be done to keep from getting Lyme disease? 
    • Avoid areas where ticks are known to occur. 
    • Stay in the middle of the trail; avoid grassy areas, contact with logs, tree trunks and fallen limbs
       in the forest.
    • Tuck pants into boots or socks, and shirt into pants. 
    • Wear light-colored clothing and long-sleeved shirts so ticks can be more easily seen. 
    • Use a repellent registered for use against ticks. 
    • Thoroughly check yourself and others for ticks during and up to three days after activities in 
       tick-infested areas. 
    • Keep grass along trails, buildings and camping areas mown.

How should attached ticks be removed? 
    • Using tweezers, grasp the tick’s mouthparts as close to the skin as possible.
    • Gently pull the tick straight out, using a firm steady motion. 
    • Wash your hands and the bite site with soap and water. Apply an antiseptic to the bite site. 
    • Note: prompt tick removal can prevent transmission of infection. 
    • Consult with your physician if you develop any symptoms, especially a rash, within 30 days of the tick

More Useful Information and Links on Lyme Disease and Ticks: 

California Department of Health Services:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: