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On the Lookout for Lyme Disease

The Emergency Care Center at Sturdy Memorial Hospital offers prevention and awareness tips.

Summer is the perfect time for enjoying the outdoors. Unfortunately, summer is also tick season.

“Whether your activities are hiking, camping, or even taking a walk or gardening in the backyard, you are at risk for Lyme disease because deer ticks, which carry the infection, could be anywhere outdoors,” said Dr. Brian Kelly, associate chief of ambulatory services at Sturdy Memorial Hospital and board certified Emergency Medicine physician. Lyme disease is an infection caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. Untreated, the bacterium travels through the bloodstream and establishes itself in various tissues, which can cause a number of symptoms, some of which are severe.

“This year, we are seeing an increase in the amount of Lyme disease presenting at Sturdy’s EmergencyCare Center,” Dr. Kelly said. But you can take several preventive measures to avoid Lyme disease:

  • Avoid wooded, bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.
  • Use insect repellant with 20 percent or more of DEET, the active ingredient in many repellant products, on adult skin to prevent tick bites. Use products that contain permethrin on clothing.
  • Wear long pants, sleeves, socks, and hats to keep ticks off your skin.
  • Check your skin and clothes for ticks and remove them before going indoors. 

“Ticks like warm, cozy areas, so pay special attention to the folds of the skin, such as underarms, behind the knees, in and around the ears, the back of the neck, and beltlines,” said Dr. Richard Smith, chief of pathology and board certified pathologist.

If you do find a tick, remove the body with fine-tipped tweezers right away. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), deer ticks need to be attached for at least 24 hours before they can transmit Lyme disease. However, because many people with Lyme disease don’t remember getting a tick bite, you need to be aware of the symptoms of Lyme disease:

  • “The first, and classic, sign of Lyme disease infection is an expanding, circular skin rash or blotch,” Dr. Kelly said. “It is commonly referred to as a ‘bull’s eye rash’ because of a ring that appears and grows around the site of the tick bite.” According to the CDC, the rash occurs in approximately 70-80 percent of infected persons and begins at the site of a tick bite after a delay of 3-30 days (the average is about 7 days). “The rash could be solid rather than ring-shaped, or even appear as multiple lesions all over the body.”
  • “Other symptoms of Lyme disease can include joint pains, headache, fever, chills, and fatigue. If left untreated, severe symptoms, such as arthritis, disorientation, dizziness, and short-term memory loss, can occur,” Dr. Smith said.

If you think you have symptoms of Lyme disease, seek medical attention immediately. Diagnosis of the disease should be made early in order to prevent severe symptoms and complications.

For more information call 508-222-5200 or visit www.sturdymemorial.org.

Richard Pollack July 20, 2012 at 10:59 AM
All very good advice. Finding and promptly removing ticks (from a person or pet) can dramatically reduce risk of infection. Once the tick has been removed, have it identified. Only certain kinds of ticks can transmit the agents of Lyme disease, babesiosis and anaplasmosis. Other ticks may transmit other infections. The longer the tick is attached, the greater the risk of infection. Physical samples can be sent, or digital images uploaded, for a rapid, confidential, independent and expert evaluation. For more educational information and help with identification, visit https://identify.us.com. Richard Pollack, PhD (IdentifyUS LLC)
Alexander Davis July 21, 2012 at 02:12 AM
As reported in the 7/13/12 Vineyard Gazette, Lyme disease is grossly under-reported. In 2010 the CDC only reported 25 cases on Martha's Vineyard, yet that year there were filled prescriptions of antibiotics to treat 1100 Lyme patients each for 21 days. Currently two MDs together see 50-70 Lyme patients there every week. Yet 63% of the tourists don't know there is a danger from tick- borne illness on the Vineyard. Tufts Professor Sam Telford states that the main reason for the high tick prevalence is the immense deer population. It is estimated at 50 deer per square mile. Telford points out that ticks from one deer per season can produce hundreds of thousands of eggs. "When deer get too dense, ticks get too dense."
Tom Golota July 25, 2012 at 01:52 PM
If you have a tick imbedded in you, I have found that putting some liquid anti-bacterial hand soap on a cotton ball and rubbing it in a circular fashion on the tick, forces it to detach. I have used this several times and was successful each time. It sure beats tweezers and leaving the head in the skin. I have tried many other methods, but this one has been fool proof for me and is painless.
Richard Pollack July 25, 2012 at 02:32 PM
Tom, If that method worked for you, then the tick was not likely attached. Fine tipped forceps or a specialized tick removal device is faster and far more effective. Ticks don't have a 'head'. Instead, their harpoon-like mouthpart sometimes does break off and remain in the skin as a superficial splinter. That's not a big deal, as the mouthpart, itself, is not going to transmit infection. This structure usually will fall out within days, even if you do nothing. In fact, it tends to be a mistake to try to excavate the site to pull out the mouthpart, as this will add risk of causing a scar and of secondary infection (from non-sterile tools).
Tom Golota July 25, 2012 at 05:15 PM
Something was definitely stuck in the skin. We tried to wipe it off and it was stuck to the skin. I don't know what was stuck, but it definitely seemed "attached" to the skin. It has been a couple of years since the last one so I don't remember specifics.

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