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Health Officials Say Prevent Lyme Disease from Tick Bites

By Staff | Jul 21, 2021

The Lyme disease bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, is spread through the bite of infected ticks. The blacklegged tick (or deer tick, Ixodes scapularis) spreads the disease in the northeastern, mid-Atlantic, and north-central United States. The western blacklegged tick (Ixodes pacificus) spreads the disease on the Pacific Coast.

Ticks can attach to any part of the human body but are often found in hard-to-see areas such as the groin, armpits, and scalp. In most cases, the tick must be attached for 36 to 48 hours or more before the Lyme disease bacterium can be transmitted.

Most humans are infected through the bites of immature ticks called nymphs. Nymphs are tiny (less than 2 mm) and difficult to see; they feed during the spring and summer months. Adult ticks can also transmit Lyme disease bacteria, but they are much larger and are more likely to be discovered and removed before they have had time to transmit the bacteria. Adult Ixodes ticks are most active during the cooler months of the year.

Are there other ways to get Lyme disease?

∫ There is no evidence that Lyme disease is transmitted from person-to-person. For example, a person cannot get infected from touching, kissing, or having sex with a person who has Lyme disease.

∫ Lyme disease acquired during pregnancy may lead to infection of the placenta and possible stillbirth; however, no negative effects on the fetus have been found when the mother receives appropriate antibiotic treatment. There are no reports of Lyme disease transmission from breast milk.

∫ Although no cases of Lyme disease have been linked to blood transfusion, scientists have found that the Lyme disease bacteria can live in blood that is stored for donation. Individuals being treated for Lyme disease with an antibiotic should not donate blood. Individuals who have completed antibiotic treatment for Lyme disease may be considered as potential blood donors. Information on the current criteria for blood donation is available on the Red Cross websiteExternal.

∫ Although dogs and cats can get Lyme disease, there is no evidence that they spread the disease directly to their owners. However, pets can bring infected ticks into your home or yard. Consider protecting your pet, and possibly yourself, through the use of tick control products for animals.

∫ You will not get Lyme disease from eating venison or squirrel meat, but in keeping with general food safety principles, always cook meat thoroughly. Note that hunting and dressing deer or squirrels may bring you into close contact with infected ticks.

∫ There is no credible evidence that Lyme disease can be transmitted through air, food, water, or from the bites of mosquitoes, flies, fleas, or lice.

Early Signs and Symptoms (3 to 30 days after tick bite)

∫ Fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes

∫ Erythema migrans (EM) rash:

∫ Occurs in approximately 70 to 80 percent of infected persons

∫ Begins at the site of a tick bite after a delay of 3 to 30 days (average is about 7 days)

∫ Expands gradually over a period of days reaching up to 12 inches or more (30 cm) across

∫ May feel warm to the touch but is rarely itchy or painful

∫ Sometimes clears as it enlarges, resulting in a target or “bull’s-eye” appearance

∫ May appear on any area of the body o See examples of EM rashes

Later Signs and Symptoms (days to months after tick bite)

∫ Severe headaches and neck stiffness

∫ Additional EM rashes on other areas of the body

∫ Arthritis with severe joint pain and swelling, particularly the knees and other large joints.

∫ Facial palsy (loss of muscle tone or droop on one or both sides of the face)

∫ Intermittent pain in tendons, muscles, joints, and bones

∫ Heart palpitations or an irregular heart beat (Lyme carditis)

∫ Episodes of dizziness or shortness of breath

∫ Inflammation of the brain and spinal cord

∫ Nerve pain

∫ Shooting pains, numbness, or tingling in the hands or feet

∫ Problems with short-term memory


∫ Fever and other general symptoms may occur in the absence of rash.

∫ A small bump or redness at the site of a tick bite that occurs immediately and resembles a mosquito bite, is common. This irritation generally goes away in 1-2 days and is not a sign of Lyme disease.

∫ A rash with a very similar appearance to EM occurs with Southern Tick-associated Rash Illness (STARI), but is not Lyme disease

∫ Ticks can spread other organisms that may cause a different type of rash.

Treatment for Lyme Disease

People treated with appropriate antibiotics in the early stages of Lyme disease usually recover rapidly and completely.

Antibiotics commonly used for oral treatment include doxycycline, amoxicillin, or cefuroxime axetil. People with certain neurological or cardiac forms of illness may require intravenous treatment with antibiotics such as ceftriaxone or penicillin.