Lyme disease—ticks, insects that transmit infection

Lyme disease, a tick-borne infection, has caused a lot of ink to flow in the past few years. Here is some information on the subject.

Causes and transmission

Lyme disease is an infectious disease caused by a bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi. It is transmitted to humans through a bite by certain types of ticks. In order for the disease to be transmitted, ticks must be infected by the bacteria in question. These vampire-like insects feast on the blood of humans and certain animals.

To transmit the infection, ticks must remain latched on to the host for at least 12 to 24 hours. The longer the tick latches on, the greater the risk of contamination. Because there is no pain, the bite often goes unnoticed. The infection cannot be transmitted from human to human or from other insects or animals to humans.

Risk factors

All individuals, regardless of their age or situation, can be affected by Lyme disease. People who practise activities outdoors, whether occupational or other, (landscapers, farmers, forest rangers, hikers, hunters, campers, etc.) are particularly at risk—even more so if they venture off the beaten path.

The risk of tick bites is present from spring to the beginning of winter; it peaks in spring and during summer.

Signs and symptoms

Following a tick bite, the bacteria spreads to the skin, then into the blood, and to certain tissue. The signs and symptoms can be numerous and depend on the stage of the disease. For instance, they can include:

  • a red bull's-eye pattern around the tick bite
  • fatigue
  • weakness
  • spasms
  • fever
  • shivering, and
  • muscle pain

When the disease reaches an advanced stage, it can cause damage to the joints, heart, and nervous system. Death can occur in the most severe cases.

Treatment

Lyme disease can be treated, especially when it is detected early. In any event, it can be difficult to recognize, since its characteristics resemble those of many other diseases. Seeking prompt medical attention helps to prevent the affected person's condition from worsening. Treatment is based on antibiotic therapy.

If you must take an antibiotic to treat Lyme disease, your pharmacist will inform you of the dosage, duration of treatment, side effects and possible interactions, and the precautions to be taken.

Some advice to prevent tick bites

  • Wear long clothes with maximum coverage, ideally pale in colour. This will help you to spot ticks more easily.
  • Wear socks (ideally pulled up over the pant leg) and closed shoes or boots.
  • Learn to recognize the types of ticks that are most often infected by the bacteria.
  • Find out from local public health offices if the area where you live or the places you visit are at risk.
  • Use DEET-based insect repellent when you spend time outdoors, particularly in areas that are at risk.
  • Try to avoid contact with small bushes and long grass when going out into the woods, in a field or in any other places where this type of vegetation grows.
  • After an outdoor activity, take a shower to get rid of any ticks that might not yet have latched on to the skin.

If ever you notice that a tick has latched on to your skin, do not kill it by crushing it. Instead, follow these steps:

  • Make sure to remove the tick as quickly as possible—ideally, in less than 24 to 36 hours to avoid infection.
  • Using clean tweezers, grasp the head of the tick as close as possible to the area of the bite, and gently pull it out upwards vertically.
  • Clean the bite with soap and water.
  • Place the tick in a bag or an airtight container. If it is alive, you can store it up to 10 days in the refrigerator. If it is dead, place it in the freezer.
  • Write down where and when the bite occurred.
  • If you present symptoms of infection in the following weeks, provide the tick to a doctor for analysis.

For information about insect repellent, which is recommended to prevent tick bites, read the following text: Protection against insect bites using five questions.

Speak to your pharmacist to find out more about Lyme disease, protection against insects, and other ways to stay healthy during summer.

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Lyme disease—ticks, insects that transmit infection

Lyme disease, a tick-borne infection, has caused a lot of ink to flow in the past few years. Here is some information on the subject.
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