Health Tips Tuesday: National Lyme Disease Awareness Month
(WGGB/WSHM) -- It’s Lyme Disease Awareness Month and Dr. Tilahun Gemtessa, the chief of infectious disease at Mercy Medical Center, has some insight on how to stay safe from ticks.
SO WHAT IS LYME DISEASE AND WHAT ROLE DO TICKS PLAY IN SPREADING THE DISEASE?
Gemtessa: “As most people may know, Lyme disease is a bacterial infection called Borrelia burgdorferi. This bacteria infection is spread to people through the bite of several types of ticks -- commonly referred to as deer ticks. Generally the ticks need to be attached to your skin for more than 36 hours before the ticks can transfer this bacteria. Here in the United States, people are more common to get lyme disease in certain regions, like the East Coast mainly, the New England region, the North and Midwestern states, and the West Coast -- like Northern California. So far we don’t have any other evidence -- like Lyme disease can be transmitted person to person, through hugging or kissing, having sex with a person who has Lyme disease and there’s more transmissions through breast transfusion or breastfeeding -- however, it can be transmitted from one to another through...the bite of infected ticks.”
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE SYMTPOMS OF LYME DISEASE? HOW WOULD SOMEONE KNOW IF THEY POSSIBLY HAVE THE DISEASE?
Gemtessa: “A lead diagnosis to a tick is very important in Lyme disease and usually the symptoms of early Lyme disease include a bulls-eye rash, a circle skin rash. We see this in patients, and usually the way I can tell if my patients (have it) they have flu-like symptoms in the middle of the summer. The first thing to consider is, people can have fevers, chills, headaches, joint pain, muscle pain. These all could be signs of early Lyme disease. If Lyme disease is not cleared, it can cause early Lyme disease to mature to late Lyme disease. With late Lyme disease, people can have arthritis, which is a joint infection, joint swelling. The most affected joint would be the knee joint. People could also have nervous system involvement; where they could have nerve paralysis, numbness, meningitis (an infection of the brain), fever, headache. Rarely it can also affect the heart. If you have any symptoms that are suggestive of Lyme disease, you should talk to your primary care doctor so you can have a blood test and proper treatment if tested positive.
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