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What you need to know about Lyme disease

You likely have at least heard of Lyme disease, it’s become basically synonymous with the word “tick,” and with good reason — it’s the most commonly reported vector-borne illness in the United States. It is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdoferi and transmitted by the black-legged tick, otherwise known as the deer tick. According to TickCheck.com, between 2000 and 2016, there were 2,529 confirmed cases of Lyme disease reported in Illinois. But because it is frequently under-reported, TickCheck estimates that number is likely ten times as much at 25,290 true cases of Lyme disease in our state.

Meet Ixodes scapularis,the tick responsible for transmitting Lyme disease

As we mentioned, the tick that transmits Lyme disease is the black-legged (or deer) tick (Ixodes scapularis). Most bites are from immature ticks in the nymph stage, which are less than 2mm and very difficult to see. While they can attach to any part of the body, they are most often found in hard-to-see areas with thinner skin, such as the groin, armpits, and scalp. Adult ticks can also transmit Lyme disease but they are larger and have a better chance of being discovered and removed before they have time to transmit the bacteria. The good news is that if you are bitten by a tick that carries Lyme disease, it usually needs to be attached for 36-48 hours before the bacteria can be transmitted. Therefore, it is very important to perform regular tick checks after being outdoors, even in your own yard.

Symptoms of Lyme disease — What to look for

Typical symptoms of Lyme disease include fever, headache, fatigue, and a rash called Erythema migrans, or “bullseye" rash, which usually shows up at or near the site of the tick bite between three and thirty days after being bitten. This rash occurs in the majority of infected victims, though not all. If you have the tell-tale bullseye rash, it will likely expand gradually over a period of days and has the potential of becoming over 12 inches in diameter.

Later signs of a Lyme disease infection (after about 30 days) include additional bullseye rashes, neck stiffness, arthritis with severe joint pain and swelling, facial paralysis, dizziness, and more. If left untreated, Lyme disease can spread to the heart and nervous system.

How Lyme disease is diagnosed

If you suspect that you may have contracted Lyme disease, please see your doctor. To obtain a diagnosis, your doctor will take into account your history of possible exposure to ticks in areas where Lyme disease is known to occur, your symptoms, and the results of a blood test use to detect whether your body has been producing antibodies to Lyme disease bacteria. However — the CDC recently confirmed that blood tests for Lyme don’t always detect the disease in the first few weeks of infection, which means that your test can come back negative but you may still have it. It is highly advised that you get more than one test for Lyme spaced 2-3 weeks apart because of this. (See video from Good Morning America in the sidebar.)

Luckily, when detected early, most cases can be easily treated with a few weeks of antibiotics, though not all. Lyme disease is rarely life-threatening, but there is currently no vaccine for it.

Pets can get Lyme disease, too.

Lyme disease is not exclusive to humans. Our pets can also get infected, especially dogs. Unlike in humans, dogs don’t show the giveaway bullseye rash and signs of the disease may not appear for 7-21 days or longer after a tick bite. So it’s important to watch Fido closely for changes in behavior or appetite if you suspect that he’s been bitten by a tick. It’s harder to spot ticks on pets because of their fur, but similar to humans, they tend to hide in areas that have thinner skin, such as the ears and between digits of their feet. Vaccines are not available for all the tick-borne diseases dogs can get, and they don’t keep dogs from bringing ticks into your home. Therefore, it is extremely important to use a tick preventive product on your pet. Always consult your veterinarian before using tick preventatives on your furry friends, especially cats, as they are very sensitive to a variety of chemicals.

The best prevention of Lyme disease is avoidance

The best way to avoid contracting Lyme disease is by avoiding ticks all together, especially in the months of May, June and July, although you can get bitten by a tick at any time of year. Local media such as WTTW do a great job of bringing awareness of tick-borne diseases every season, including a few tips on how to avoid ticks. Taking preventative measures such as insect repellant and covering the skin when you are in heavily-wooded areas definitely helps, but many people don’t realize that ticks can be (and often are) in their own yards, where they spend the most time.

Because of this, eliminating ticks in your yard is vital to avoiding ticks and the possibility of contracting Lyme disease and other vector-borne diseases. Mosquito Squad’s barrier traditional barrier treatment works on ticks as well as mosquitoes and other biting insects. It eliminates up to 90% of bugs on contact and lasts for three weeks straight. We take an extra step with our Central Illinois tick control to ensure ticks are eliminated before they ever come near you or your loved ones, whether they have two legs or four.

Take control of your yard’s tick population and ensure peace of mind knowing you’re protected from tick-borne illnesses like Lyme disease. Call Mosquito Squad of Central Illinois today at (217) 919-9292 today, or drop us a line via the contact form on our home page. We look forward to hearing from you, and remember — your family and pets are too precious not to protect.

For more information on Lyme disease, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

How to remove a tick

If you do find a tick, remove it as soon as possible. The best way for tick removal is by using pointy tweezers. Grab the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull upward in a steady motion. See the video below.

(Video courtesy of the TickEncounter Research Center.)

Avoid crushing the tick’s body. Do not use petroleum jelly, a hot match, nail polish, or other products such as peppermint oil, as these are not proven to be effective and can actually be harmful. After tick removal, cleanse the skin with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.

CDC advises you may need multiple Lyme disease tests after a tick bite

The video below is a recent report from Good Morning America:

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