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Health Department

Lyme Disease


Tell me more about Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdoferi, which is transmitted through bites of the deer tick. Most common in New England, Lyme disease cases have been reported in Michigan. The disease causes a bulls-eye rash around the bite wound, and, later, arthritis.

How is Lyme disease transmitted?

The bacteria that cause Lyme disease are found in the midgut of the black-legged deer tick. When the tick bites a person to feed, the bacteria from the midgut can be transmitted and cause disease. CDC studies have found that, for optimal transmission, a tick must be attached to the body for 36 hours.

Lyme Disease also circulates widely among rodent and deer populations, although the disease cannot be transmitted directly from animals to humans. A tick vector is required.

What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?

The first major symptom of a person infected with B. burgdoferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme Disease, is a "bulls-eye" rash surrounding the tick bite. This usually occurs 7-14 days after being bitten. The rash is red and circular, and radiates out from the bite, sometimes in rings. Systemic symptoms may accompany the rash, such as malaise, fever, joint/body pain, and headache. If not treated with antibiotics, years later the person infected could develop arthritis, as well as encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and other neurological conditions.

How is Lyme disease treated?

Lyme disease can be treated with a 3-4 week course of antibiotics if diagnosed in the early stages of the illness. Although intravenous antibiotics are still effective when neurological complications are present in later illness, failure of the antibiotics to control the infection is much more likely, as is disease relapse.

Because of the relative rarity of B. burgdorferi bacteria, general prescription of antibiotic treatment is not advised after tick bites unless the tick can be tested for Lyme disease.

How can I prevent Lyme disease?

Health officials are taking numerous steps to help protect people from the tick bites that cause Lyme disease. One of them involves general insect control, and other experimental techniques have been to control deer and rodent populations that are required for the black-legged tick's life cycle.

Other measures you can take are to wear long pants and sleeves when you are out in wooded areas, and tucking your pants into your socks to further avoid being bitten by a tick. Wearing light-colored clothing can help with identifying a tick on your clothing. Do a tick check after coming in from the woods to prevent the transfer of the Lyme disease bacteria. Lastly, if you do find a tick attached to your skin, firmly but gently remove it with a pair of tweezers without killing it, and bring it in to your health department to be tested.

CDC Info on Lyme Disease: