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Lyme Disease: What is it?

Lyme disease is a multi-symptom bacterial illness that is spread by the bite of infected deer ticks (photo). It is the most common vector-borne illness in the United States, with the highest incidence rates occurring in the northeastern states. York is listed by the Pennsylvania Department of Health as one of eleven high risk counties for Lyme disease. The greatest risk of acquiring Lyme disease exists between the months of April and November.

What are the symptoms?

Lyme disease most often presents with a characteristic rash (frequently in the shape of a bulls-eye), and may be accompanied by flu-like symptoms such as fever, swollen lymph nodes, fatigue, headache, chills or body aches. Late stage disease is more severe and may include joint, cardiac, or neurological complications. The incubation period from infection to onset of symptoms may be as short as 3 days, but 7 to 14 days is typical.

What is the treatment?

Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics prescribed by your doctor. Early stage disease can usually be cured by taking a 3 week course of an oral antibiotic. Late stage disease usually requires intravenous antibiotics. The key to complete recovery of Lyme disease is early detection and treatment.

What about Lyme disease vaccine?

A seemingly safe and effective vaccine against Lyme disease was licensed by the FDA in 1998. This vaccine was approved for people ages 15 to 70, but recommended for persons who were engaged in outdoor activities within tick endemic areas, such as landscapers, foresters, and park workers. However, on February 25, 2002, this vaccine was voluntarily pulled from the market by its manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline, citing poor sales due to decreased demand. No other human Lyme disease vaccine exists. A canine vaccine is available for pets.

What are personal protective measures?

  • Avoid tick-infested areas, especially during May, June, and July.
  • Wear light colored clothing so that ticks can be more easily spotted.
  • Tuck pant legs into socks or boots, and shirt into pants.
  • Spray insect repellent that contains DEET on clothes and exposed skin areas other than face.
  • Treat clothes, especially pants, socks, and shoes, with Permethrin, which kills ticks on contact.
  • Wear a hat and a long-sleeved shirt.
  • Walk in the center of trails to avoid overhanging grass and brush.
  • Avoid sitting on the ground.
  • Inspect your body for ticks within 24 hours of outdoor activities.
  • Protect your pets from ticks by using a reputable tick repellent.

Tick control:

  • Remove leaves, brush, and tall grass around buildings and gardens.
  • Apply acaracides (tick poison) at the edge of woods, or stonewalls, near homes. A single, yearly application in early spring is recommended to decrease the risk of toxic environmental hazard.
  • Reducing deer presence in populated areas reduces tick abundance.

Removing a tick:

  • Do so promptly, within 48 hours is best.
  • Do not squeeze the tick body during removal.
  • Using fine tweezers, grasp the tick head as close to the skin as possible.
  • Pull the tick straight out, avoid twisting motions.
  • Wash the bite area with soap and water.

In summary, York County is a beautiful place to live, work, and play. The seasonable climate, and abundant wildlife, also provides an eco-system for Lyme disease. But tick bites can be prevented, and early Lyme disease can be cured. So, enjoy York County Parks, but remember to stay on the trail, and watch out for ticks.

On-Line Resources:

PA State Health Dept.

Centers for Disease Control

American Lyme Disease Foundation

Lyme.org

 

Local Resources:

York County Parks and Recreation 840-7440

Pennsylvania Department of Health 771-1336

Pennsylvania Game Commission 1-800-228-0791