In the spring and summer, Lyme disease is a worry for nearly everyone who spends time outside. 2017 is shaping up to be even more risky for the disease than usual.
There has been a huge amount of growth in the mice population across the northern areas of the United Sates. This has led ecologists to believe that Lyme disease will be especially bad this year. But, what do mice have to do with Lyme disease – shouldn’t we be worried about ticks? Mice are extremely efficient carriers of the disease and infect approximately 95% of the ticks that feed on them. A single mouse could have up to 50 or 60 ticks on them at once.
Scientists say the math is simple: more mice + more infected ticks = increased instances of lyme disease.
What Parts of the Country Will be Affected?
In the 1980s and early ’90s the disease was only an issue in areas of New Jersey and parts of Wisconsin. Since then, reports of Lyme disease have almost tripled. The areas that are affected are getting wider almost each year. The East Coast of the US is most heavily impacted, but it’s possible for someone to get the disease almost anywhere in the country.
What is Lyme Disease and How do I Know if I Have it?
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that is primarily transmitted from deer ticks and black-legged ticks. The disease can mimic several other diseases and can affect any organ in the body, making it extremely difficult to identify in early stages. Patients are often misdiagnosed with fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Most commonly, people with Lyme disease experience the following symptoms in the early stages:
- Fatigue (76%)*
- Headache (70%)*
- Rash (60%)*
- Fever (60%)*
- Sweating (60%)*
- Chills (60%)*
- Muscle pain (54%)*
The following symptoms are common in people with Lyme disease in its later stages:
- Fatigue (79%)*
- Joint pain (70%)*
- Muscle pain (69%)*
- Other pain (66%)*
- Sleep issues (66%)*
- Cognitive problems (66%)*
- Neuropathy (61%)*
* = the percentage of people with Lyme disease who experienced these symptoms.
Use this Lyme disease checklist to see if you or a loved one might be infected.
How to Prevent Lyme Disease
When going outdoors, especially in wooded areas, be sure to take the necessary steps to prevent tick bites.
- Cover up. When going into the woods or areas with high grasses, wear shoes and long pants. Try to stick to trails, and don’t go into areas with dense vegetation.
- Use repellents. Look for insect repellents that have 20 percent or higher concentration of DEET (Diethyl-meta-toluamide).
- Check for ticks after coming back inside. Be sure to check under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, back of the knees, around your head / scalp, and anywhere else they may hide.
- Remove any attached ticks immediately with tweezers. With fine tweezers, gently grasp the tick around its head and carefully pull. Once removed, put antiseptic on the bite.
If the tick has been attached for less than 24 hours, the chances of getting Lyme disease is very small. Always be on the lookout for rashes around the bite area and be aware of the symptoms listed above.