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Lyme Disease Basics

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What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease, or Lyme borreliosis, is an infectious disease caused by the bacteria Borrelia. In North America, Borrelia burgdorferi and Borrelia mayonii are the typical cause of Lyme disease. In Europe and Asia, Borrelia afzelii and Borrelia garini are the typical cause of Lyme disease. The bacteria is spread to humans via the bite of an infected tick, a deer tick or black legged tick.

Where are ticks found?

Individuals can be exposed to a tick any time of year, but ticks are typically most active in the warmer months, April through September. Their preferred habitat includes grassy, bushy, and wooded areas. Ticks may even be in an individual’s own backyard.

How to prevent being bitten by a tick?

The CDC suggests the following tips to help prevent being bitten by a tick:

  • Wear long sleeved shirts and long pants, with pants tucked into socks
  • Wear clothing or gear that has been treated with 0.5% permethrin
  • Avoid wooded areas or brush areas with high grass or leaf litter
  • Walk in the center of trails
  • Clear tall grasses and brush away from homes and edges of lawns
  • Mow the lawn frequently
  • Rake leaves frequently
  • Examine gear and pets for ticks after outings (ticks can travel home on them)
  • Check clothing for ticks when a person arrives at home after an outing where exposure is possible
  • Individuals should check their body for ticks
  • How to remove a tick?

    If an individual finds a tick attached to themselves, another family member or their pet, it’s important to remove it safely and as quickly as possible.

    Follow these steps to safely remove a tick:

  • Use finely tipped tweezers to grasp the tick from the side where it meets the skin
  • Using steady gentle pressure, gently pull in the opposite direction from which the tick is embedded, until the tick releases
  • The skin will tent as the tick is gently pulled
  • If using a tick removal device, like a tick scoop or tick key, follow its directions
  • Place the tick in a lidded container or zip-lock bag (in case it’s needed for testing)
  • Wash and disinfect the bite site, hands, and tweezers.
  • Avoid handling the tick.
  • Do Not Try Any of following when removing a tick:
  • Paint it with nail polish
  • Cover it with petroleum jelly
  • Hold a hot match to it
  • Squeezing or crushing a tick
  • How long does a tick need to be attached to a person to transmit lyme disease?

    The longer a tick is attached, the higher the chances are that the tick may transmit lyme disease to an individual. It is not common for lyme disease to be transmitted in cases where the tick is attached for less than 24 hours, but the risk is not zero.

    Should the tick that was found attached to a person be saved?

    Yes, it’s a good idea to save a tick that was found attached to an individual. It is possible to have a doctor send the tick to a lab to test for Borrelia or other tick-borne diseases.


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