Sunday, December 8, 2013
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Left to right, Ryan Lane, Mariana Rivera Rodriguez, Jocelyn Lahey and Conor McGrory identify types of ticks at Maine Medical Center’s Vector-borne Disease Laboratory in South Portland in June.
2013 Staff File Photo / Gabe Souza
Lyme disease is caused by a corkscrew-like bacteria and is transmitted to people by deer ticks. It is the most common tick-borne disease in the United States and North America, although it was not understood and named until the mid-1970s.
Ticks, which survive by feeding on the blood of other animals, pick up the bacteria by biting rodents and then transfer it to people. Lyme disease in humans usually begins with a large, circular rash that looks like a bullseye centered on the tick bite, followed by flu-like symptoms such as fever, headaches and sore muscles.
If not treated with antibiotics, Lyme disease can cause more acute symptoms such as arthritis, fatigue, dizziness, intermittent paralysis, shooting pains, short-term memory loss and other neurological disorders.
Centers for Disease Control officials said the new report emphasizes the importance of Lyme disease prevention efforts in states such as Maine, where deer ticks are prevalent.
"We know people can prevent tick bites through steps like using repellents and tick checks," said Dr. Lyle Petersen, director of the center's Division of Vector-Borne Diseases. "Although these measures are effective, they aren't fail-proof and people don't always use them."
Efforts are under way by the centers and other researchers to identify novel methods to kill ticks and prevent illness in people, he said.
One favored method is a community-based approach to preventing the disease, Petersen said. It involves homeowners killing ticks in their own yards, eliminating rodents that carry the Lyme disease bacteria, and using methods such as urban planning to limit the interaction between rodents, ticks and humans.
"We need to move to a broader approach to tick reduction, involving entire communities, to combat this public health problem," he said.
The report's data are preliminary and will be finalized when the three ongoing studies are complete, the Centers for Disease Control said.
J. Craig Anderson can be contacted at 791-6390 or at: firstname.lastname@example.org