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Lyme Disease

How Can Lyme Disease Be Prevented?

Last modified: 
19/04/2012 - 11:07

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

The best way to prevent Lyme disease is to:

Protective Measures

Avoiding wooded or grassy areas, especially between May and August, is one way to prevent getting bitten by ticks. But many people live or work in such areas, or enjoy outdoor recreation. To help prevent tick bites:

  • Wear protective clothing such as hats, long sleeves, and long pants tucked into socks or boots. Light-colored clothing allows ticks to be spotted more easily.
  • Apply tick repellant containing DEET on exposed skin (except on the face, and also avoid putting the repellant on the hands of young children), or treat clothing with permethrin, which kills ticks.
  • Keep to the center of trails, avoiding grasses and brush.
  • Inspect clothing often while outdoors, and have a companion inspect your back. Inspect children at least daily, and every few hours in heavily infested areas.
  • Shower and check your body carefully for ticks after outdoor activities, especially the groin, navel, armpits, head, and behind knees and ears. Have someone check your back, or use a mirror.
  • Wash clothes and put them in the dryer for at least 30 minutes to kill any remaining ticks.
  • Keep lawn mown and brush cut back. Avoid plantings attractive to deer and other animals. Limit watering of lawn. In some areas, careful use of environmental insecticides may be advisable.
  • Keep domestic animals out of tick-infested areas, check them for ticks, and use tick-control products as recommended by your veterinarian.

Reduce the number of deer

  1. People living in Lyme Disease areas should consider lobbying their town or state legislators to reduce the deer herd to less than 8 per square mile so that the tick's life cycle is interrupted. Interrupting the tick’s life cycle is the way to prevent and eventually eradicate Lyme disease. The aim would be to go back to the pre-Lyme era when there were very few deer in the community.
  2. Take part in a town-wide plan to reduce deer numbers in your area
  3. Avoid attracting deer with unprotected plantings or bird feeders

For more information go to www.deeralliance.com the Fairfield County Municipal Deer Management Alliance, a group of 13 towns in Connecticut trying to advocate for more responsible deer herd management so that Lyme can become a disease of the past.

How To Information:

How to Handle a Tick Bite

Finding a tick on your body doesn't necessarily mean you will get Lyme disease. Keep in mind that:

  • It is the tiny deer tick - not every kind of tick - that transmits Lyme disease.
  • Not all deer ticks are infected.
  • The microorganism that causes Lyme disease takes 36 to 48 hours to be transmitted.

It is important to remove an attached tick as soon as possible. To remove a tick:

  • Grasp it gently with fine tweezers, as close to the skin as possible.
  • Carefully pull straight out.
  • Do not squeeze the tick with the tweezers, to avoid forcing more bacteria into the skin.
  • Do not attempt to remove the tick with fingers, lighted cigarettes, matches, nail polish, petroleum jelly, etc.
  • Apply an antiseptic to the area of the bite to help prevent bacterial infection.

What About The Lyme Disease Vaccine?

In 1998 the FDA approved a vaccine for Lyme disease, called LYMErix, for people ages 15 to 70, but it was withdrawn from the market in 2002, due to lack of commercial success and pressure from Lyme advocacy groups. A vaccine is still available for animals. It is possible the vaccine could be re-introduced if there was a significant demand for its return. Those that had the vaccine were mostly pleased with it. It had an efficacy of 76%.

Like most vaccines, LYMErix causes the body to produce antibodies against the disease. However, the Lyme disease vaccine is unusual because the antibodies it generates seem to enter the body of the biting tick and kill the spirochetes there, instead of fighting their battle in the human bloodstream.

The FDA emphasized at the time that the LYMErix vaccine is not 100 percent effective, and it shouldn't be used as a substitute for other measures such as protective clothing or tick repellent. It required three injections over a period of a year. It is not known how long protection against Lyme disease lasts after vaccination.

There was some concern at the possibility of a small chance of arthritis as a side effect of the vaccine. This can occur if the body is "fooled" and reacts as if it were fighting off an actual Lyme disease invasion. Inflammation such as that which occurs in Lyme-related arthritis is a side effect of the vaccine.

Of the 600,000 people who received the LYMErix vaccine the first year it was available, 29 reported experiencing chronic arthritis. However, in some cases this might not have been a reaction to the vaccine, but rather a failure of the vaccine; that is, a symptom of an actual Lyme disease infection.

Nice To Know:

Protecting Your Pets

Household pets can get Lyme disease too. In animals, the typical symptoms include joint soreness and lameness, fever, and loss of appetite.

Three Lyme disease vaccines are available for dogs - LymeVax, Galaxy Lyme, and Canine Recombinant Lyme. Healthy dogs can be vaccinated when they are nine weeks or older. There is no vaccine currently available for cats.

Checking pets for all types of ticks before letting them come into the house will reduce the risk of infection for both pet and owner.

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Lyme Disease

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From Andrew Maynard - Chair of the University of Michigan Department of Environmental Health Sciences, with help from David Faulkner - 2013 Master of Public Health graduate.