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Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is an infectious disease resulting from the bite of either a black-legged tick or a deer tick. The disease name derives from the Connecticut town of Lyme where it was first diagnosed in several children in 1975.

The biting tick attaches itself to an individual and, if allowed to remain attached for at least 48 hours, can transmit a bacterium known as borrelia burgdorferi. This particular bacterium causes arthritic-type symptoms and can lead, if not treated early, to serious medical conditions.

The disease usually presents itself in late spring, summer and early fall. Its signs and symptoms include flu-like symptoms like fever and fatigue, a growing red rash and painful joints. If left untreated, Lyme disease can contribute to chronic arthritis as well as serious conditions involving the nervous and cardiovascular systems.

Common Treatments:

The best treatment for Lyme disease is prevention. When venturing into the tall grasses and underbrush of wooded areas inhabited by the ticks, individuals should wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants and apply insect repellant containing the chemical DEET.

It's also important to examine the skin after returning from forested areas. Although some ticks are no larger than the head of a pin, it is possible to detect some. If an attached tick is discovered, remove it with a pair of tweezers, grasping around the tick's head and legs and removing slowly but firmly.

If signs and symptoms appear, affected individuals should consult a physician as soon as possible. Physicians typically treat the disease's early stages with oral antibiotics like doxycycline and amoxicillin. If the disease advances to the nervous system, the cardiovascular system or the joints, they may prescribe intravenous antibiotics.

Some progress has been made on a vaccine called LYMErix that is applicable for people ages 15 to 70. Still, the vaccine cannot prevent all cases of the disease, and a pediatric vaccine is still in testing and approval stages with the Food and Drug Administration.
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