Prevent lyme disease spread

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: August 29th, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Almost thirty years ago, doctors discovered that an outbreak of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis in Lyme, Connecticut was actually a bacterial infection spread by a tick bite. Today, Lyme disease has been reported in forty-nine states.

With the number of cases increasing each year, it’s the most common disease transmitted by insects in the country. And because no vaccine is available, prevention is the most important step to stop its spread.

If you are planning to spend time in the woods or in an area with overgrown grass, use a bug repellent and wear clothing that covers most of your skin. Light-colored clothing will make it easier to see and remove ticks.

Ticks are usually found close to the ground, so tuck your pants into your socks for extra protection.

Because most cases are acquired in the backyard, remove any leaf litter and create dry barriers between your yard and any dense vegetation. If you live in a wooded area, consider applying an insecticide to your yard.

Most importantly, check your body and scalp carefully for ticks after spending time outdoors. Check your children and pets, too. A tick attached for less than forty-eight hours is not likely to transmit the bacteria.

Lyme disease is often difficult to diagnose and can cause long-term health problems if left untreated. Early symptoms may include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic “bulls-eye” skin rash. Fortunately, most cases can be treated with antibiotics once diagnosed.