Friday, July 16, 1999
Caution: Lyme disease in Carlisle
Board of health agent Linda Fantasia announced on July 6 that there are two confirmed cases of Lyme disease which were probably contracted in Carlisle. The board of health tracks these cases and receives reports from local doctors and hospitals whenever a case of Lyme disease is confirmed. Lyme disease can be transmitted by tiny deer ticks which can infect humans and animals. Although not fatal, Lyme disease can be serious if not treated. Contact the board of health at 369-0283 for more information.
Lyme disease is caused by bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi. These bacteria are carried by ticks. On the east coast, the main vector for Lyme disease is the deer tick, which is black or reddish and slightly smaller than the more common dog tick. The ticks live in woods, low-growing grasslands and yards, all of which are common in Carlisle.
Because of its range of symptoms that mimic those of other diseases, Lyme disease is often called the Great Imitator. Probably the most revealing signal of Lyme disease is a red rash that appears in the area of the tick bite one to four weeks after the bite occurred. The rash begins with redness directly in the area of the bite, then as the circle of the rash spreads, the center clears. However, this rash should not be confused with the normal, harmless, red spot many people develop in reaction to the actual bite of a tick. It should also be kept in mind that not everyone with Lyme disease develops the rash.
Lyme disease can also carry a wide variety of other symptoms. These include flu-like symptoms of headache, fatigue and slight fever; joint pain and swelling; dizziness and irregular heartbeat. Other parts of the body are affected as well: the jaw, bladder, lung, ear, eyes, throat, brain, stomach, heart, joint, skin and liver. These symptoms may tend to show in four-week cycles. Memory loss, poor attention span, and depression have all been traced to Lyme disease.
Because of the wide range of symptoms, Lyme disease is difficult to diagnose. People should see a doctor if they see the red rash, if they feel symptoms following a bite, or if they are worried about a bite. The usual treatment is oral or intravenous antibiotics. Because the cell cycle of the Lyme bacteria is four weeks, treatment lasts at least that long. In some chronic cases, the treatment may last longer and be more involved.
The best way to prevent contracting Lyme disease is to check thoroughly for ticks. Check body parts that bend, such as behind the knee, places where clothing touches the skin, and places where ticks are commonly found, including belly button, ears, neck, hairline, and top of the head. If a tick is found, remove it with tweezers where the mouth enters the skin, then wipe the area with antiseptic or wash with soap and water. The removed tick can be tested for the bacteria that cause Lyme disease. It is also important to wear appropriate clothinglong sleeves and long pantswhen in an area where ticks are prevalent.
While a vaccine has been developed to prevent Lyme disease in pets, the first measures should be preventative. Residents should regularly check dogs and cats for ticks, especially long-haired dogs whose fur makes a good hiding place. Flea collars and a spray that is applied to the animal's skin effectively keep ticks away. The vaccine is a third measure.
© 1999 The Carlisle Mosquito