Protect yourself and your family from ticks and lyme disease virtua infectious disease antiemetics definition

The weather is warming up and the draw of the outdoors is beckoning. But, before you go hiking in the Pinelands or playing in your favorite park, remember that deer ticks are everywhere. They transmit Lyme disease—and other serious tick-borne diseases—which are treatable if caught early.

Lyme disease is the most common zoonotic (transmitted from animal to human) disease in America. It’s caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorderi, which is carried by the black-legged deer tick that’s common in New Jersey and surrounding areas.

People often encounter deer ticks after spending time in heavily-wooded areas, but you don’t need to be a hiker to be bitten by one. Those with pets should be aware that a cat or dog can easily bring a tick into the house. This means you should be on alert even if you don’t spend much time outdoors.

A bulls-eye rash is one of the most recognizable symptoms of Lyme. A few days after a tick bite, this rash will expand outward and may turn into a red outer ring with a clear area inside it. Looking for that pattern is important, because almost all people will have some degree of redness and hypersensitivity to a tick bite, as with any insect bite. It’s also important to note that this rash isn’t tender, which is unusual. If it looks like it should hurt and it doesn’t, that’s a cause for concern.

Generally, Lyme disease is easily treated with 2-3 weeks of oral antibiotics. Studies have shown no difference in outcomes between those treated for 3 weeks with oral antibiotics versus those treated for 3 months with intravenous antibiotics. Some studies have even suggested that a shorter treatment of 10-14 days might even be just as effective. Also, a single dose of the oral antibiotic doxycycline given when someone COMES IN with an engorged deer tick still attached, but showing no other symptoms, is highly effective at preventing disease.

If, after 2-3 weeks of oral antibiotics, you’re not feeling any better, there’s a good chance you don’t have Lyme. In this case, continuing to take doxycycline likely won’t help, and other diseases should be ruled out with the expert guidance of an infectious disease specialist. Beware of these other tick-related diseases

• Ehrlichiosis and anaplasma can cause a flu-like illness that may be mild or may cause symptoms of headache, chills, fever, rash and fatigue. These symptoms can develop up to 2 months after the tick bite. Much like Lyme disease, this is treatable with the oral antibiotic doxycycline but you should see your physician.

• Babesiosis is another tick-borne illness to think about during warmer months. You may develop symptoms 1-6 weeks after a tick bite including fatigue, fever, joint aches and abdominal pain. People who would be at risk for severe disease include those who have had their spleen removed, those over age 50, anyone on immunosuppressive drugs, and patients with HIV. This is usually treated with a combination of antibiotics.

Powassan virus is transmitted by the same tick that carries Lyme disease and can infect all age groups from the very young to the very old. The most common symptoms are fever and headache but people may also get muscle aches and a mild rash. Unfortunately, this virus can’t be treated with antibiotics, and there’s no vaccine available at this time. If you think you or a family member have been bitten by a tick and have the above symptoms that progress to changes in mental status, you definitely want to go to the nearest emergency room so you can be evaluated by a doctor.

Additional tick-borne diseases: With the warmer weather we’ve experienced in the last few years, some scientists say that tick-borne diseases have flourished. Despite our location, we’ve seen Rocky Mountain spotted fever in the Northeast. Along with symptoms like fever and muscle aches, Rocky Mountain spotted fever also is associated with a headache and rash. In addition, a few new tick-borne diseases have emerged including Rabbit fever and the Heartland virus. Symptoms are similar to the other tick-borne illnesses. As always, speak to your primary care doctor and, if needed, he or she can refer you to an infectious disease doctor for further evaluation.