After playing outside in tall grass, be sure to check for ticks. Ticks are small arachnids that consume the blood of animals and humans, and if a tick has been infected by bacteria, it can transmit the infection to humans. One of the diseases that humans can contract from ticks, typically deer ticks (also known as black-legged ticks), is called Lyme disease. Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium known as Borrelia burgdorferi. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that about three hundred thousand people suffer from this disease every year.

Generally, in the spring and early summer, when temperatures start to grow warmer, ticks begin to seek a host. Near winter, when temperatures drop to below 8.9°C (45°F), ticks become dormant. When a tick attaches to a host, there are a few things to keep in mind.

The sooner the tick is removed from the skin, the better, as it has less time to transmit Lyme disease to the host. This is the only known way humans can contract Lyme disease, and it is not spread by human contact.  When humans contract Lyme disease, they can experience a range of symptoms, including headaches, exhaustion, fever, and a ring-shaped skin rash called erythema that can expand to look like a bull’s eye. Other more serious symptoms can occur, like joint pain. If the disease is left untreated for a few months, a person can even develop neurological problems such as inflamed membranes around the brain, temporary paralysis, numbness, and weakened muscles.  

A doctor typically prescribes antibiotics to treat this disease. Many cases of Lyme disease can be resolved with antibiotics, but prevention is a person’s best bet to avoid the disease. Insect repellent, checking for ticks, applying pesticides, and other solutions can help keep ticks away from humans.

Institutions like the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) are researching Lyme disease to find better ways to diagnose and treat it in humans. 

 

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is an infectious bacterial infection that is spread by ticks, characterized by a distinctive, expanding 'bullseye' redness and swelling around the site of the tick bite.

antibiotic
Noun

substance that can stop or slow the growth of certain microbes, such as bacteria. Antibiotics do not stop viruses.

arachnid
Noun

arthropod with eight legs

Plural Noun

(singular: bacterium) single-celled organisms found in every ecosystem on Earth.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Noun

agency, part of the Department of Health and Human Services, whose mission is "to create the expertise, information, and tools that people and communities need to protect their health through health promotion, prevention of disease, injury and disability, and preparedness for new health threats."

disease
Noun

harmful condition of a body part or organ.

erythema
Noun

inflammation of redness of the skin.

Lyme disease
Noun

inflammatory, bacteial disease that is transmitted by ticks.

microbe
Noun

tiny organism, usually a bacterium.

tick
Noun

arachnid that sucks blood from a host; often a carrier of disease.