May is a great month for many reasons: Cinco de Mayo, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, and the flowers brought by April showers are just some of the beautiful things celebrated. But did you know May is also Lyme Disease Awareness Month? It might not be the cheeriest of topics, but Lyme Disease is an extremely important issue to be aware of as the weather turns and you start to spend more time outside.
What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme Disease is a bacterial infection spread primarily through ticks – known as deer ticks on the East coast and black-legged ticks on the West coast. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claim that over 30,000 cases are reported annually by state health departments. Known as the “Great Imitator,” Lyme Disease mimics many other illnesses, often leading to misdiagnoses such as chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, and depression.
Currently, Lyme Disease is only known to spread through the bite of an infected tick. Ticks normally rest on the tips of grass blades or shrubs waiting for a host to pass by. Black-legged ticks often attach to the host and can stay there for several days. The bacteria can take time to transmit to the host, so removing the tick within 24 hours will greatly reduce the chance of Lyme Disease. There is no evidence suggesting person-to-person transmission or pet-to-person transmission.
Symptoms and Treatment
Early signs of Lyme Disease can manifest much like those of the flu; fever, chills, headache, joint pain, and swollen lymph nodes. Individuals may show signs of an Erythema Migrans (EM) rash, which starts at the site of the tick bite and gradually expands outward to look like a bullseye. Late stage signs showing days to weeks after a bite can be more serious: severe headaches, additional EM rashes, arthritis and acute joint pain, heart palpitations, nerve pain, and loss of muscle tone or drooping facial muscles. Lyme Disease can affect any area or system of the body including neurological and nerve functions. If left untreated, it can cause permanent damage to nerves and joints and become Post-Treatment Lyme Disease or Chronic Lyme Disease.
Blood tests are usually used to diagnose Lyme Disease. Antibiotics help treat individuals with early Lyme Disease, and those with more progressed cases may need intravenous medication.
How You Can Help
Throughout the month of May, communities across America will be doing their part to raise awareness and funds for Lyme Disease. Below are some ideas for how you can get involved!
- Participate in a run/walk – Look in your local area for a Lyme Disease fun run or 5k. This is a fun and active way to get involved in the cause.
- Volunteer at a local pet shelter – Animals are also susceptible to Lyme Disease and other illnesses carried by ticks. You can help some four-legged friends by volunteering your time at a shelter or clinic. They are always in need of people to walk, feed, and play with the animals. Also be sure to check your own pets for signs of Lyme Disease as they can bring ticks into the house, posing a danger to you and your family.
- State Support Groups – These groups offer support to those affected by Lyme Disease. They also share information about local events and campaigns.
- Make a donation – Organizations like LymeDisease.org strive to raise awareness and get people involved in the eradicating Lyme Disease permanently. Making a donation helps further their efforts in outreach, research, and education.
Don’t forget to contact Mosquito Joe while you’re at it! Mosquito Joe’s barrier spray services protect your yard from mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks! We can help make outside fun again for you and your family this summer. Give your local Mosquito Joe a call for more information.