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Health tips and advice: Understanding Lyme disease

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that is transmitted by a tick. The infection is one of the most common tick-borne illness in Europe and much of North America. Lyme disease is caused by the borrelia burgdorferi bacterium. Dear ticks can also habour the borrelia burgdorferi bacterium that causes infection. If you live or spend time in or around heavily wooded or grassy areas where ticks thrive, observe extra caution to prevent infection.

Lyme Disease background information

Lyme disease was first identified in 1975 after extensive research was conducted to explain why there was an unusually high number of children being diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis in Lyme and surrounding towns in the United States.

Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA), commonly referred by doctors as juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), is a type of arthritis that causes inflammation and stiffness of joints for a period of more than six weeks in children aged 16 or younger.

Researchers discovered that most of the children infected in Lyme and surrounding towns lived near wooded areas that havoured ticks. They also found that children first showed symptoms of infection in the summer months at the height of tick season.

Symptoms of Lyme

Often, a tick’s bite goes unnoticed. The tick can bite and remain attached to someone’s body feeding for days before eventually dropping off. The risk of Lyme infection increases the longer the tick remains attached to your body feeding.

An early sign that you may have contracted Lyme is a characteristic red or pink circular rash that appears around the area of the bite. The red or pink circular rash usually appears three to 30 days after the tick’s first bite. You may also suffer flue-like symptoms like headaches, muscle pain, swelling of joints and general tiredness.

If left untreated, Lyme can cause further symptoms to develop several months or even years later. Among the symptoms that may develop much later are neurological conditions like temporary paralysis of the facial muscles.

Diagnosis and treatment

Diagnosis of Lyme is difficult because symptoms are similar to those of common illness like flue, unless the characteristic red or pink circular rash is present. Blood tests may be done to confirm acute infection, although these tests don’t always confirm diagnosis. Always take due precaution when you are in areas where ticks thrive or Lyme disease is prevalent.

Treatment of confirmed Lyme is with antibiotics. You will usually be prescribed antibiotics for two to four weeks, depending on the stage at which your Lyme disease is at. People suffering Lyme cannot spread the disease. Lyme is only spread by ticks.

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