LYME DISEASE, EHRLICHIOSIS, BABESIOSIS
Lyme disease is an illness caused by a spirochete, a corkscrew shaped bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi. The bacteria are spread by the bite of an infected tick (Ixodes scapularis) commonly known as the deer tick. The tick is about the size of a poppy seed (or the period at the end of a sentence) when in its nymphal (immature) stage.
The Redding Health Department has identified Lyme disease as the most commonly reported disease in Redding. The woodsy character of Redding along with its current overpopulation of deer increases the risk of exposure to deer ticks.
SIGNS, SYMPTOMS, TREATMENT
- Early Lyme disease symptoms include a ring like rash (bulls’ eye) that may surround the area of the bite. The rash slowly enlarges and generally is not itchy.
- Other symptoms include flu like symptoms: fatigue, headache, fever, chills, and achy muscle and joints (not like a cold with sore throat, cough, and runny nose).
- Later symptoms may include arthritis, neurological problems, and heart problems.
- Lyme disease is usually treated with oral antibiotics for a few weeks in its early stages, which is often effective.
Some may experience symptoms and others may not. Contact your physician if symptoms occur. Early response to symptoms with prompt treatment helps prevent complications.
Just when you thought Lyme disease was enough to be concerned about, Ehrlichiosis has quickly emerged as another tick borne disease. The distribution of the Ehrlichiosis infection in Connecticut very much mirrors that of Lyme disease. There were 544 confirmed cases from 1995 to 2000, covering all 8 counties.
Ehrlichiosis is a general name used to describe several bacterial diseases that affect animals and humans. Currently, three species of ehrlichia (pronounced err-lick-ee-uh) in the United States and one in Japan are known to cause disease in humans. It’s a disease, like Lyme and Babesiosis, which is transmitted in our region by the bite of an infected blacklegged or deer tick.
SIGNS, SYMPTOMS, TREATMENT
- Ehrlichiosis symptoms generally include fever, chills, headache, fatigue, and muscle aches.
- Other signs might include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cough, joint pains, and confusion.
- A rash is uncommon but can occasionally occur. Symptoms usually appear about 5-10 days after the tick bite.
- It’s usually treated with doxycycline or tetracycline.
The severity of Ehrlichiosis is partly related to the health of the immune system of the patient. It’s possible, as with West Nile Virus, that those who become infected develop only mild symptoms and do not become ill at all. The important thing is to not ignore or tolerate symptoms. Ehrlichiosis can be a severe illness, and sometimes fatal if left untreated.
An Ehrlichiosis diagnosis is based on a combination of clinical signs, symptoms, and confirmatory laboratory tests. Blood sample tests indicative of ehrlichiosis include a low white blood cell count, a low platelet count, and elevated liver enzymes. Tests may be negative in the early stages and are more accurate from specimens obtained during the third week of illness. Some immunity develops to the disease but this is thought to wane after a year or so and allow some patients to become re-infected in the future.
The transmission of Ehrlichiosis from an infected attached tick can occur within 24 hours, unlike Lyme disease, which usually takes longer (24-48 hours). This emphasizes the importance of getting the tick off as soon as possible. Be sure and use bent nose needle nose tweezers, not your hands.
Babesiosis is a newly recognized disease in humans. It was previously only documented in wild and domestic animals such as cattle. The first human case in the US was recognized in 1968. Approximately 1000 cases of babesiosis have been reported in Connecticut alone between 1991 and 2007.
Babesiosis is transmitted to humans through the bite of a deer tick, the same tick that transmits Lyme disease and Ehrlichiosis. In its younger stages the deer tick feeds primarily on the white-footed mouse and later requires a blood meal from a medium to large size herd mammal (primarily deer) to reproduce. The increasing deer and tick populations are associated with increased tick-borne disease cases.
SIGNS, SYMPTOMS, TREATMENT
- The symptoms for Babesiosis are nonspecific, and can range from very mild to very severe and even fatal in 5% of cases.
- Patients who become sick generally experience fever, sweats, muscle or joint pain, jaundice, and malaise.
- Less frequent symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, headache, shaking chills, and skin rash.
- Symptom on-set is usually within 1-6 weeks of the tick bite. Many experience only mild symptoms and do not become sick enough to require treatment. If you become ill after a tick bite be sure to seek medical attention.
- Antibiotics are typically used to treat Babesiosis, however treatment is not free from potential risks and side-effects, and it is generally reserved for severe cases or for those with compromised immune systems.
HOW TO DRESS TO AVOID A TICK BITE
- Ticks are picked up on lower extremities; concentrate efforts there.
- Wear light colored clothing. This makes it easier to spot ticks on clothes.
- Wear long pants and long sleeve shirts.
- Tuck pants into socks to prevent ticks from crawling inside. Tuck shirt into
pants, this creates a barrier.
- Tuck hair under a hat, long hair should be braided.
- Check clothing and skin very carefully (especially thighs, groin, arms,
underarms, leg and scalp) after being outdoors.
- Uses an EPA approved tick repellent and wash it off when you come home.
- Permethrin-based repellent such as Permadone or Duranon, which is applied to
clothing as opposed to skin and lasts up to 2 weeks. This product kills ticks.
- Deet, in concentrations between 30-40%, is applied to skin and repels ticks.
- Talk to your pediatrician about the safest, most effective products for children.
Follow product directions
- Brush clothing off outside and check for loose ticks.
- Put clothes in plastic bags until taking them to the laundry do not leave clothes
on the floor. Ticks can live in the house for a few days depending on humidity.
- Put clothes in a dryer on high heat for 15-20 minutes. Ticks can survive the
washing machine, but they cannot tolerate the heat.
- Comb out hair with a fine toothcomb.
- Use your fingers and feel for ticks, especially in the hair.
- Take a shower or bath and blow dry hair with high heat.
- Check again the next morning, ticks take several hours to feed and may be
easier to see or feel as they become engorged with blood.
- Use a pair of bent, needle nose tweezers.
- Put it as close to the skin/tick juncture (bite site) and with a gentle, steady pull,
remove the tick from the area.
- Do not use bare hands when removing the tick.
- Do not use any Vaseline or other topical lotions or creams to try and get the tick to release. It is cemented in by its mouthparts and these irritants might make the tick regurgitate infected stomach contents into the bite site.
- Do not squeeze the tick’s abdomen or you may inject more bacteria into the site.
- Clean the area with alcohol and wash your hands.
- If the removed tick was engorged and possibly attached for more than 36 hours
you should contact your physician and have the tick tested by the Redding Health
- Ticks that have been engorged and removed should be delivered to the Health Department promptly in a zip lock bag to be tested for Lyme disease.
- In approximately three weeks the Health Department receives tick test results stating if the tick is infected with Lyme disease.
CAUTION: If a rash or symptoms develop (see Signs, Symptoms above), do not wait for tick test results. Contact your physician immediately. Record the date and site from which the tick was removed.
YARD CARE TO REDUCE TICKS
- Modify your property so it is less attractive to animals that are hosts to ticks by:
eliminating bird feeders, keep stone walls tidy. Stone walls are mouse and
- Do not feed deer. Discourage deer from your property.
- Keep lawns mowed.
- Remove leaf litter, where adult ticks harbor over the winter.
- Trim shrubs and bushes so ticks cannot brush the legs of people who pass by.
- Pesticides can be used for tick control, consulting a licensed professional to
learn about the least toxic, most effective application techniques to avoid contaminating water sources or killing beneficial insects.
Lyme Disease, Ehrlichiosis, and Babesiosis can be prevented on a regional level by reducing the tick population which spreads the disease. The blacklegged or deer tick is dependent on the white tailed deer for successful reproduction. The adult female tick needs a 3 day blood meal from the deer before she can lay her 2000 or more eggs. The increasing deer and tick populations have resulted in increased tick-borne disease cases the past 15 years. Some communities have successfully reduced their tick-transmitted diseases to nearly zero by reducing the deer population back to healthy levels of 10 deer per square mile (from the current 60 or more per square mile recorded in Redding and surrounding towns by Connecticut DEP in January 2009). According to national tick expert Dr. Kirby Stafford, chief entomologist at the
Connecticut Agricultural Station, “Reducing deer densities to below 10 to 12 per square mile has been shown to substantially reduce tick numbers and human Lyme disease.”
Redding is a member of the 18-town Fairfield County Municipal Deer Management Alliance, which advocates a cooperative approach to deer population reduction. More information on tick-borne disease, deer ticks, the deer population, and the importance of keeping deer numbers under control can be found at their web site www.deeralliance.com. Brochures on Lyme disease, deer management, and ways to discourage deer and ticks from your property are available in the Redding Health Department (938-2559). The Redding Deer Warden can be reached at
948-2844 to take part in town deer control efforts.
Additional tick-borne disease information can be found at hvceo.org and click on “Tick-borne Illness Resource Center”.