Deer Ticks & Lyme Disease

Practice prevention against tick bites. You can get Lyme disease again if you are bitten by another infected tick.

The deer tick, also known as the black-legged tick, is the principal vector of Lyme disease in the northeastern and north central United States. Lyme disease is an illness caused by a spirochete (a corkscrew-shaped bacterium). The Lyme disease spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi is transmitted primarily by the deer tick, which normally feeds on mice, deer, and other small and medium-sized mammals and birds. If a human is bitten by an infected tick and consequently infected with the spirochete, the individual may develop Lyme disease.

Research has shown that it usually takes 24 hours or more of feeding on a person for a nymphal-stage tick to transmit the spirochete. Adult ticks need to feed for 36 or more hours before transmitting the spirochete. Larval-stage ticks are not infected with the spirochete until they take a blood meal from an infected host animal, and thus do not transmit Lyme disease to humans.

PROTECT YOURSELF

Ticks can spread disease, including Lyme disease. Protect yourself while hunting, hiking, and camping by following these guidelines:

  • Use insect repellent that contains 20-30% DEET.
  • Wear clothing that has been treated with permethrin.
  • Take a shower as soon as you can after coming indoors.
  • Look for ticks on your body. Ticks can hide under the armpits, behind the knees, in the hair, and in the groin.
  • Put your clothes in the dryer on high heat for 60 minutes to kill any remaining ticks.

REMOVING A TICK

If you remove a tick quickly (within 24 hours) you can greatly reduce your chances of getting Lyme disease.  If you find a tick attached to you, follow this procedure

  • Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick at the surface of your skin.
  • Pull the tick straight up and out. Don’t twist or jerk the tick—this can cause the mouth parts to break off and stay in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth parts with tweezers if you can. If not, leave them alone and let your skin heal.
  • Clean the bite and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.
  • You may get a small bump or redness that goes away in 1-2 days, like a mosquito bite. This is not a sign that you have Lyme disease.

Note: Do not put hot matches, nail polish, or petroleum jelly on the tick to try to make it pull away from skin.

SEEING YOUR DOCTIOR

If you develop a fever, a rash, severe fatigue, facial paralysis, or joint pain within 30 days of being bitten by a tick you should see your doctor. Be sure to tell your doctor about your tick bite. If you have these symptoms and work where Lyme disease is common, it is important to get treatment right away. If you do not get treatment, you may later experience severe arthritis and problems with your nerves, spinal cord, brain, or heart.

LYME DISEASE TREATMENT

Your doctor will prescribe specific antibiotics, typically for 2-3 weeks. Most patients recover during this time. You may feel tired while you are recovering, even though the infection is cured. If you wait longer to seek treatment or take the wrong medicine, you may have symptoms that are more difficult to treat.

LOOKING AHEAD TO RECOVERY

Take your antibiotics as recommended. Allow yourself plenty of rest. It may take time to feel better, just as it takes time to recover from other illnesses. Some people wonder if there is a test to confirm that they are cured. This is not possible. Your body remembers an infection long after it has been cured. Additional blood tests might be positive for months or years. Don’t let this alarm you. It doesn’t mean you are still infected.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

For More Information Contact
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
1600 Clifton Road NE, Atlanta, GA 30333 
Telephone: 1-800-CDC-INFO (232-4636)
Email: [email protected]