Archive for the 'How is Lyme Disease Spread / Contracted?' Category

The tick responsible for Lyme disease in the USA

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

This tiny little tick is the one responsible for spreading Lyme disease.  It is called the blacklegged tick, and is also known as the Lyme disease tick, by virtue of being the carrier of this disease. As can be seen from the photo of the black legged tick below, its markings are quite obvious.

The blacklegged tick is the tick responsible for spreading lyme disease

However, the lyme disease tick in the USA comprises two ticks:The Eastern blacklegged tick distribution

The Ixodes scapularis tick of the Eastern USA, and the Ixodes pacificus tick of the western USA.

Western blacklegged tick distribution in the USA

Both these lyme disease ticks look pretty much the same and are both called the blacklegged tick.

Although popularly referred to as insects, the lyme disease tick has 8 legs, and is therefore an arachnid, like a spider is.

So, how do you know if the tick that bit you is a lyme disease tick?

It’s size, but mostly it’s appearance is the big give away:

Showing the difference between the black legged tick and the other ticks in the USA

The lyme disease tick has a pronounced darker area around the top half or more of it’s body, the other two ticks do not.

The Life Cycle of the Lyme disease tick:

Lifecycle of the lyme disease tick - When is it the possible carrier of the lyme disease

AS you can see from this lovely picture of the lyme disease tick lifecycle, the eggs and larva are not considered to be greatly  infectious for lyme disease.  Rather, it is only when the lyme disease tick is in the nymph stage that they pose the greatest real risk to humans – presumably because, as adults, it is no longer feeding to grow.

Essentially any animal can act as a host for the lyme disease tick, including robbins, deer, foxes, mice … Come autumn and winter, and the lyme disease tick poses little risk of infection.

How do you remove a tick?

Carefully, as you don’t want to leave the head attached into your skin, which can easily happen if you yank on the body.

Tick removal done right

So, with a pair of fine, pointy tweezers, you grasp the tick around the head region, and lift it up off the skin steadily. This can be a bit of a challenge given the small size of a lyme disease tick, and the way it sticks its head into your skin.

Should we coat the tick with vaseline or try burning it or do something else to it? The CDC says not to do anything to the tick prior to its removal, as you could cause the tick to inject more saliva into you, thereby increasing your risk of catching lyme disease etc.

Why is the removal of the head from the skin so important?

I believe it is because that when a tick feeds, it does so by a tube it inserts into the skin, and the blood then flows up the tube into its body.  The problem is that blood animals have blood that coagulates to seal off breaks in the blood vessels and capilleries. So, the blood coagulates to prevent the tick from from taking the blood.  In order to get round this, the tick automatically excretes it’s saliva into the blood vessel to prevent the blood from coagulating at that point.  It is believed, that via this saliva,  the lyme disease is carried into the human body.  So, if you remove the tick body and leave the head, the first thing your leaving there is the tube and head that are responsible for the saliva being pumped in in the first place.

Secondly, infection can set in where the tick head is left behind.

Thirdly, if you grasp the tick round the body, your likely to force more saliva from the tick into you, and increase the risk of catching lyme disease from it, if the tick is likewise infected.

Maps, diagrams, drawings  and photos courtesy of www.cdc.com.  You may also find http://www.anaes.med.usyd.edu.au/venom/spiders.html a useful page on tick removal.

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Lime Disease FAQ – Questions and Answers

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

 What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease – sometimes abbreviated to Lyme disease – is an animal disease which can be transferred to humans by ticks. Lyme disease is actually a bacteria, named Borrelia burgdorferi, and there are four varieties of the Borrelia burgforferi bacteria which were identified in the laboratory. To spell that out a bit more, there are actually four varieties of Lyme disease that humans can get!

How Common is Lyme Disease?

Since being recognised in the mid 1970’s, Lyme disease has become the most commonly identified tick-borne disease to infect humans across the globe.

Where can you catch Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease has been recorded in each continent of the earth (except Antarctica) in spite of the fact that uncertainty remains as to whether Lyme disease occurs south of the equator, such as in Australia.

How is Lyme Disease Spread?

Short and sweet, Lyme disease is transferred to humans, from animals, by ticks. Any tick that feeds on an animal infected with Lyme disease – whether the tick be laraval, nymphal or adult – will then carry the bacteria, and spread the bacteria to any host it decides to feed upon, whether animal or human. The common animal host for the ticks are small and warm blooded creatures, such as a mouse, though deer infected with Lyme disease have also been known to pass the infection on to humans by tick as well.

Can any tick spread Lyme Disease?

Not all ticks are the same when it comes to being responsible for spreading Lyme disease onto humans. In the northern hemisphere, there are only four species of ticks known to pass lyme disease on to humans: Ixodes scapularis and Ixodes pacificus in the United States, Ixodes ricinus in western Europe, and Ixodes persulcatus in eastern Europe and Asia. No Ixode specie lives in Australia, so Australia is free of Lyme disease for the most part.

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Garden Cautiously

Monday, April 14th, 2008

I debated for a long time this year over whether I was going to garden at all. I considered options like getting a huge load of green concrete in and covering the whole yard with it, but in the end, I decided that the pleasure of gardening outweighs the risks. Besides, one of the feral cats probably delivered the tick that infected me to my door.

I could get a relapse of Lyme disease. Or catch West Nile Virus. Or receive a bite from one of the poisonous baby snakes that enjoy the rock wall. I could also get hit by a falling ceiling fan in the house. So, I’m gardening cautiously. Very cautiously. I’m doing my best to alleviate risks with:

  • Light colored clothing with long sleeves
  • Hat
  • Off sprayed on my shoes

And I’m enjoying my time in the garden, even if it is a bit painful because of the joint pain and I can’t do the more strenuous activities I used to handle easily. The bulbs are blooming and the veggie garden (Freshly tilled thanks to my brother.) is partially planted.

I love spring, even it means a legion of infectious deer ticks are being hatched.

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It Could Be Worse – Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Monday, November 5th, 2007

Did you know that Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is said to be worse than Lyme disease? I’m glad I don’t live in the Rockies! And the dog tick is a carrier, which means it probably spreads even worse than Lyme does. According to the Memphis Democrat:

Mention a tick bite and most people are worried about Lyme disease. But one Scotland County family found out there can be worse, after a canine friend was struck by a much rarer disease courtesy of one of the nasty little parasites.

Rocky-Mountain Spotted Fever is not unheard of, but most Missourians are far more familiar with the sister malady, Lyme Disease.

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Fatal Ehrlichiosis Case

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

How sad is this?

CENTRALIA, Mo. | A 15-year-old girl has died from a rare but treatable tick-borne disease, officials said Thursday.

When are we going to have a quick and accurate way to diagnose tick borne illnesses? Ehrlichiosis should not be fatal.

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Removing a Tick

Sunday, August 26th, 2007


tick

Originally uploaded by John Carleton

You come back from a nature walk and you find a tick embedded in your skin. Ick. As you run for the vaseline, you hesitate. Didn’t you hear that wasn’t really the way to remove ticks? Maybe you should get a lighter instead and burn the little biter. No, wait…how do you remove ticks anyway?

Well, there really is only one way to remove a tick properly and it involves tweezers and pulling. Sorry, folks, I know it is gross, but if you don’t take it off properly, you risk infections and ticks hanging around on you for a few more days. Grasp the tick with the tweezers as close to the head as possible and pull it out. It is important to get the whole tick.

You may want to save the dead tick to show your doctor if you suspect Lyme disease. Make sure it is in a container it can’t get out of!

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Lyme Disease is Popping Up All Over

Friday, August 17th, 2007

Here I was feeling special and it turns out ticks are giving Lyme to everyone, including heads of state! According to news reports:

The recent revelation that President Bush was treated for Lyme disease put him among a growing number of Americans who have gotten the disease.

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Fairfield County Deer Tick Solution – Get Bambi

Sunday, July 29th, 2007

deer are often accused of spreading ticks infected with Lyme disease

From Newsday.com:

A coalition of several Fairfield County towns and cities is proposing a reduction in the deer population as the only sure way to reduce the number of cases of Lyme disease.

With the news about mice being the big carriers, they may be planning to hunt the wrong four legged critter.  However, I’m sure that overcrowded deer populations do account for at least part of the Lyme disease problem. If they don’t have enough food in the wild, they are more likely to go into people’s gardens to forage and can very easily leave behind infected ticks.

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Baltimore Sun Article on Lyme Disease

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

Today, the Baltimore Sun had a big article on Lyme Disease. It is nice to see that local papers are paying attention to this, especially since there are quite a few cases of Lyme Disease in Maryland. In fact, in 2006 alone, there were 1248 cases reported. The most interesting thing is something I’ve been saying all along to anyone who will listen to me:

It’s not the deer that are the problem – it is the little tick covered field mice that romp around the houses that are spreading deer ticks far and wide.

Douglas Hotton, leader of DNR’s deer management program, said deer numbers may have little to do with the spread of Lyme disease. In fact, he suggested that the very name “deer tick” is misleading. “It ought to really be called the “mouse tick,” he said, since the white-footed mouse is the main host for the Lyme-causing bacteria.

Another thing the article discussed was that not everyone agrees on treatment. The CDC says not to take drugs longer than four weeks, although a second dose of four weeks is sometimes necessary. Patients’ groups are saying they may need to take antibiotics for a lot longer than that if they have a chronic Lyme infection. Who’s right? I don’t know. Hopefully, this second dose is all I’ll need.

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You Have Cooties and Other Myths

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

Lyme Disease is passed into your bloodstream by the infected tickWhen people find out I have Lyme Disease, I get some interesting reactions. The most common is fear that I will give them the disease somehow. They all but form the sign of a cross if I ask if they want a sip of my drink. So, to put fears at rest

If one family member develops Lyme disease, others are not at risk unless also bitten. Human-to-human transmission has not been noted. Although dogs and cats can get Lyme disease, there is no evidence that they spread directly to their owners. However, pets can bring infected ticks into your home or yard. Consider protecting your pet through the use of tick control products for animals.

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