The northeast is a very high-risk area for tick-borne diseases, especially Lyme disease. We've collected key facts and information for you to learn more about Lyme disease and how it affects people in our community.
What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. When infected with Lyme disease you may initially experience flu-like symptoms, along with fever, chills, headaches, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, joint pain, and/or muscle aches. Lyme disease is transmitted through the bite of a Blacklegged (Deer) tick. There are other types of ticks in the Northeast area such as Dog ticks, but they have not been shown to transmit Lyme disease. Additionally, one cannot catch Lyme disease from other insects, such as mosquitoes, flies, or fleas.
About 50% of female adult blacklegged and about 20% of nymph stage blacklegged ticks carry Lyme disease according to the University of Rhode Island’s TickEncounter Resource Center. Ticks are not born with Lyme disease, they acquire the bacteria through biting an infected host, most commonly mice.
If bitten by an infected tick, 70-80% of people will develop a bullseye-like skin rash called erythema migrans. If you do not develop this rash there is still a chance you have contracted Lyme disease.
Where is Lyme disease reported?
About 97% of Lyme disease cases happen in the northeast and north-central states. In 2012, 95% of Lyme disease cases came from 13 states, including; Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont.
How can I prevent it?
- Awareness. The number one way to prevent contracting Lyme disease is to avoid getting bitten. This can be done by wearing tick-conscience apparel when active in tick friendly areas, such as tall grass, brush, leaf-covered areas, or unkempt vegetation. Tucking your pants into your socks when active in possible tick inhabited areas is a highly recommended practice to avoid tick bites.
- Steer clear of tick habitats. When on a trail, keep towards the center to avoid contact with tick infested areas.
- Treat your property. Spray your property to kill and repel ticks. Although most tick sprays are synthetic chemicals which may pose potential health risks, there are organic options. Organic alternatives to chemical insecticides do not harm or pose risk to humans (including children), pets, wildlife, beneficial insects, or the environment.
- Remove ticks from skin as quickly as possible. Quickly identify and remove a tick from your body before it has a chance to transmit the Lyme bacterium. If you can remove the blacklegged tick within 24 hours of getting bitten your chances to contract Lyme disease are drastically reduced.
How can I help support victims of Lyme disease?
Help support the Tick-Borne Disease Alliance (TBDA) and the 2nd Annual Kink the Tick Lyme Disease Awareness and Support Group 5k Walk in south Hadley, MA here: 2nd annual kick the tick 5k walk.
You can also make a donation to the American Lyme Disease Foundation.
Learn more about Lyme disease from these helpful resources: