Hey, all! Hope everyone is staying safe and healthy (and keeping up with their reading). I’ve been pretty busy at work. It’s been an interesting time working in healthcare. Though, I can’t imagine how it is in the human field, in the veterinary field, we’re pretty busy right now. I’m not complaining, though. A lot of people are getting puppies and kittens since they’re working from home and have time to work with them, so I’ve been getting my fair share of puppy and kitten cuddles!
Now for the progress report. Escape from Hotel Barbaas is coming along great. I’m just doing one more readthrough and it’ll be ready to publish. I’m going to aim to get it published Friday, September 25th, so keep an eye out for it!
Now onto our second instalment of our discussion on Lyme disease. I’m going to go over some key facts on the human end of this widespread vector-borne disease, and I hope you all enjoy it and maybe learn a few interesting tidbits!
As stated before, Lyme disease is caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, a spirochete bacterial infection spread by blacklegged ticks (commonly called deer ticks). Lyme disease is the most widespread vector-borne pathogen in the US (1). It has a very wide range of symptoms, and is often mistaken for other diseases because of this.
Some comforting news (at least for me), is that an infected tick has to stay attached to you for at least 24 hours to transmit the disease (1). This gives you some time to find and remove the tick before it gets the chance to spread Lyme. In the veterinary field, we make sure to tell pet parents that they need to remove the entire tick from the skin. The saliva that ticks secrete as they bore into the skin acts as an adhesive of sorts, basically cementing themselves to their hosts.
If not done correctly, you can leave the tick’s head lodged in the skin when you remove the rest of it. Here are the CDC’s recommendations for proper tick removal(2):
- Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
- Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
- After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
- Never crush a tick with your fingers. Dispose of a live tick by putting it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet.
Something you should ALWAYS do after removing a tick is to keep an eye on the site of removal. If you have any redness, swelling or tenderness after a few days to a few weeks; go to the doctor (2).
Although Lyme has several general “flu like” symptoms associated with it (lethargy, fever, chills, headache, aches and pains, etc.), it also has a couple of telltale signs as well (but those may or may not manifest). The classic “bullseye rash” is probably the best example. Most people, though certainly not all, develop a type of rash called erythema migrans at the tick feeding site (3).
For some, the infection doesn’t go much beyond that. However, others develop more serious symptoms such as severe headache and neck pain, rashes in other areas of the body, swollen lymph nodes, joint pains. People can even develop arthritis because of the disease, as well as loss of muscle tone in the face, moderate to severe chronic joint pain non related to arthritis, and even neurological and heart abnormalities. In some instances, it can even cause swelling of the brain and spinal cord (3).
Though Lyme disease certainly can be serious if left unchecked, it can be treated. The sooner it’s caught, the more likely it is for successful treatment. In early stages of the disease, common antibiotics such as amoxycillin and doxycycline can be used to treat the infection. Typically, patients are given a course of these antibiotics for a course of 10-21 days (4), which isn’t that different compared to treating other bacterial infections as far as duration is concerned.
I realize this all sounds scary, and it’s pretty hard to avoid ticks completely unless you become a hermit. But, there are some things you can do to prevent getting tick bites. Contrary to popular belief, ticks do not fall from trees. They start low and climb their way up. When you go hiking, wear long pants and tuck them into your socks. Bug spray is also a great idea (such as OFF!). Another little trick that one of the veterinarians at my work has suggested to people who go hiking, walk through woods, etc. is to get a flea/tick collar from the pet store and wear it around your ankles (VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: Do NOT allow the tick collar to make contact with your skin—place the collar over your socks/jeans).
For more information, you can check out the CDC’s website for some great info on the disease. There are also a few good foundations dedicated to educating the public about Lyme disease, such as the Lyme Disease Foundation (5) and the Lyme Disease Association (6).
Well, that’s all for this blog post. Next time, I will be talking about one of my villains of my book series. See you then! Until then, happy reading!