Deadly bites: Protecting yourself against Lyme disease

What do frost, a mosquito and a tick have in common? Their bites can be deadly. But only a tick can spread a serious illness called Lyme disease.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there are over 30,000 new cases of Lyme — pronounced like “lime” — disease every year. It is mainly caused by one type of bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi. But last year, scientists discovered a new species of bacteria in deer ticks that also causes Lyme disease. This species, Borrelia mayonii, can be found in the upper Midwest U.S. (Note: The new bacteria are named after the founders of the Mayo clinic where some of the researchers work — not mayonnaise!)

So what does this new bacteria mean? Should I be worried?

Don’t freak out! New bacteria, same risk. This new bacteria poses similar dangers. You should still guard yourself and your family carefully against ticks, as Lyme disease is spread when an infected tick bites a human. It is mainly reported in the northeastern U.S. and upper Midwest.

Lyme disease caused by both B. burgdorferi and B. mayonii can cause fever, headache, rash and neck pain. But while B. burgdorferi can cause a bull’s- eye-like rash, B. mayonii has a diffuse rash. B. mayonii is also associated with nausea and vomiting.

Either way, you can help guard yourself against tick bites by wearing long sleeves and pants, and staying on trails when hiking. Spray yourself with an insect repellant that has DEET if you are going outside. As Harry Potter’s Mad-Eye Moody would say, “Constant vigilance.”

Check yourself for ticks and symptoms of Lyme disease before you wreck yourself! Be thorough: Examine your feet, ankles, armpits, groin and neck carefully. These are the places that ticks love the most. And remember to check your pets, too.
CDC tick removal tips.

Lyme disease is usually treated with antibiotics, but it gets harder to heal the longer you wait for treatment. If you see that you have been bitten by a tick, carefully remove it with tweezers. Ask your doctor about being tested for bite-related diseases.

For more tips on avoiding ticks and Lyme disease, check out our Get Ready fact sheet

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