If You Are Walking In The Woods This Spring, Be Wary Of Ticks.

[Editor Note: This is the first of a two part article on Lyme disease by Steve Hines, an avid outdoorsman and certified Wilderness First Responder.]

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection caused by the bite of an infected black-legged or deer tick. Lyme disease has become a nation-wide epidemic with 300,000 cases reported last year with a significant increase predicted for 2017. The highest concentration of cases has been the Northeastern United States including the New England states, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Outbreaks will also occur in the west most noticeably in Colorado, Wyoming and Montana.

NPR has reported that back in the early ’80s, the disease wasn’t that big a problem. Cases were confined to two small regions: western Wisconsin and the area from Connecticut to New Jersey.

However, in 2015, the CDC reported Lyme is present in more than 260 counties. The disease shows up in Maine, swoops down the East Coast into Washington, D.C., and southern Virginia. Then it hops to the Midwest into northern Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. There are also small pockets of Lyme on the West Coast. This map shows the extent of Lyme disease for 2015, the latest year for which complete date is available.

Lyme disease is no longer considered limited to the Northeast.
Credit: CDC

We are vulnerable almost anywhere outdoors. So, hikers, hunters and fishermen and gardeners are all susceptible. The size of the deer tick can vary depending on the sex of the tick, and its maturation state. Approximately the size of a sesame seed, a female adult deer tick measures about 2.7 mm in length. They are orangish brown but may change to be rust or brown-red in hue following feeding. The body becomes engorged after a meal and may expand considerably. Regardless, the deer tick’s body is approximately half as large as that of the common American dog tick.

According to the CDC’s Kiersten Kugeler. “In the Northeast, most people catch Lyme around their homes,” she says. “People out gardening. People playing in their backyard. Mowing the lawn.”  The ticks are transmitters of the disease, picking up Lyme pathogens from deer mice or other infected hosts.

Notice the cycle of Lyme and the tick life cycle.

Deer are hosts; Lyme is transmitted to ticks via mice or other infected organisms.
Credit: CDC

Diagnosis

The main problem in diagnosing Lyme disease has been physicians’ lack of education about it. Many doctors won’t recognize Lyme as an ailment. That denial caused a serious lag in treatment and investigation into an effective vaccine. Some victims have developed home remedies and antibiotics have been reasonably effective with early diagnosis.

Another difficulty has been how Lyme’s mimics other ailments like Influenza, chronic fatigue, arthritis.

The classic symptoms include fever, facial paralysis, joint and muscle pain and the classic Erythema migrans (EM) rash referred to as the “bullseye” rash. All symptoms of infected victims appear within 3 to 30 days, which is why early detection and diagnosis is critical.

Lyme disease is a real threat to our health. As seniors, if infected, we can be very sick and take a long time to recover—if ever (the disease if untreated can be chronic). Next week, we’ll discuss treatment and prevention.

5 Comments

  1. I am an avid mountain biker in Pennsylvania. I routinely spray my shoes, socks, legs, and clothes with Off Backwoods Formula. I also spray my jersey and lightly on neck and head. I am careful not to get helmet because somebody of the active ingredients are harmful to helmet construction. To date no issues and we are crawling with ticks here in the Keystone State.

  2. Correction- Deep Woods Formula.

  3. Steve Hines says:

    Hi Pat. Thanks for adding to our knowledge about prevention. Does Deep woods formula have at least 20% DEET? More to come next week on prevention.

  4. Tom Weller says:

    My mother contracted Lyme disease in 1978 in the park adjacent to my house in Southwest Michigan. She showed me the bite mark and asked me if I knew what is was. I did not know. She went to over 30 doctors and ended up diagnosing it her self. Doctors told her that is was not in this area. She finally found an open minded doctor. Images of her brain revealed many dead spots in her brain. After all the microbe is a spirochete as is the syphilis organism. Both of the organisms eat nerve tissues and thus one experiences a myriad of confusing symptoms. She was cured after intensive antibiotic therapy. She said that she thinks differently than she did because she had to retrain her brain. Watch for the bulls eye bight effect. The bronze age man found frozen in the Italian Alps had antibodies to the Lyme organism.

  5. check your body when coming in. the tick has to be on your body for a substantial time to infect with the disease, so chcking your entire body is extremely important. you can prevent getting it. also keeping your lawn grass cutlow. the mice cant hide in the grass then. mice are big carriers. they also sell products that the mice can be in contact with and get rid of the mice species that transmits the ticks.

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