Outbreak in Utah A Reminder to Guard Against Lyme Disease
Spring’s warm weather brings flowers, blooming trees, and of course bugs. Among these bugs are infection-carrying ticks and most bites occur between the months of April and October in the US. Be sure that you take precautions when going outside to guard yourself against Lyme disease and other tick-related diseases, including Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
Utah is not one of the states that is usually associated with a large number of cases of Lyme Disease. In fact, of the top 10, seven are in the Northeastern United States. But the Utah State Health Department is currently forming a task force to investigate a possible Lyme disease infestation in Lehi, UT.
The action is in response to at least seven cases clustered around a neighborhood in the northern part of the city. The officials will be conducting testing to determine what types of ticks are in Utah and if they are capable of carrying Lyme disease. They will also educate residents about the issue.
Lyme disease is an inflammatory disease contracted from the bite of a deer tick. These insects carry the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, the cause of the infection. Symptoms of Lyme disease include a bulls-eye rash (called erythema migrans), fever, chills, body aches, joint pain and swelling, weakness, and temporary paralysis including Bell’s palsy. The rash occurs in about 70-80 percent of infected people.
You are more likely to get Lyme disease if you live or spend time in heavily wooded or grassy areas where the ticks breed and feed. The CDC reports that between the years of 1990 and 2008, the top ranking state in total Lyme disease cases was New York, followed by Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Wisconsin and Maryland.
Only a minority of deer tick bites lead to Lyme disease, but the longer the tick remains attached to the skin, the greater the risk of getting the disease. The key is to get treatment as soon as possible, because it is most effective when begun early. The oral antibiotics doxycycline or amoxicillin are the standard treatment. A 14- to 21-day course is usually recommended.
To decrease the risk of being bitten by a tick carrying the bacteria for Lyme disease, wear long pants and sleeves when walking in wooded or grassy areas. Tuck pants into socks, and wear a hat and gloves. Stick to trails and avoid walking through low bushes and tall grass. Wear an insect repellant of 10 to 30 percent DEET or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Check yourself, your children and your pets regularly for ticks and, if found, remove them completely using tweezers.