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Lyme Disease

A bacterial disease
What is it?
Photo of Lyme DiseasePhoto credit: CDC

Lyme disease is caused by a type of bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, that has a corkscrew shape. The disease gets its name from the town of Old Lyme, Connecticut, where it was first identified. Cases of Lyme disease have been reported in several parts of the United States, but it's most common on the east coast, in the north central states and in northern California.

How do I avoid it?

Be careful in the woods, especially during summer and fall. Wear long sleeves and long pants tucked into your socks and use insect repellent. After outdoor activities, check yourself for ticks and have a buddy check you, too. Removing a tick early greatly reduces the risk of infection. Lyme disease is treatable with antibiotics taken for two to four weeks.

What are the symptoms?

The most obvious symptom of Lyme disease is a circular skin rash that resembles a target. However, some 25% of sufferers do not develop the rash, making the disease difficult to diagnose. It sometimes takes weeks for patients to develop symptoms, which are often general complaints such as fatigue, chills and fever, swollen lymph glands, headache and muscle or joint pain.

How do I get it?

Lyme disease is spread by the deer tick, which lives in wooded areas, grasslands and yards. Ticks pick up the bacteria when they feed on infected animals such as mice and chipmunks. They pass the disease on to humans and other animals when they bite and take a blood meal, which usually means staying attached at least 24-48 hours.

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