Lyme Disease and Tick-Borne Illnesses Spotlight

Lyme disease is caused by bacteria that are transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected blacklegged (deer) tick. The tick must be attached to a person for at least 24 hours in order to spread the germ. The most common symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system. Lyme disease is diagnosed based on symptoms, physical findings (e.g., rash), and the possibility of exposure to infected ticks; laboratory testing is helpful in the later stages of disease. Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with a few weeks of antibiotics. Treatment in the early stages of the disease can prevent more serious problems later. Steps to prevent Lyme disease include using insect repellent, removing ticks promptly and avoiding wooded or bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter. The ticks that transmit Lyme disease can occasionally transmit other tick-borne diseases as well.

Tick Identification Card
Click here to view FAQ about Lyme Disease
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  • Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in North America and Europe and one of the fastest-growing infectious diseases in the United States
  • Although Lyme disease has been reported in 49 of 50 states in the U.S, about 99% of all reported cases are confined to just five geographic areas (New England, Mid-Atlantic, East-North Central, South Atlantic, and West North-Central).
  • The rate of Lyme disease in Massachusetts is 4.5 times greater than the national average.
  • Young deer ticks, called nymphs, are the size of a poppy seed; adult deer ticks are the size of a sesame seed.
  • The deer tick can carry germs that cause other illnesses in humans such as babesiosis and human granulocytic anaplasmosis.
  • Deer ticks are capable of spreading more than one type of germ in a single bite
  • Lyme disease can occur any time of the year but young ticks are most active during warm weather months between May and July and adult ticks are most active during the fall and spring.
  • About 60% of people with untreated Lyme disease get arthritis in their knees, elbows and/or wrists.
  • The heart can be affected in Lyme disease, with slowing down of the heart rate and fainting.
  • Many people who do not get treatment develop nervous system problems.
  1. Ticks like warm moist places so check the back of knees, armpits, groin, scalp, back of the neck and behind the ears.
  2. Use fine point tweezers and grab the tick as close to the skin as possible.
  3. Do not squeeze or twist the tick but instead pull straight out with steady, gentle pressure.
  4. Wash your hands with soap and water.
  5. Clean the bite with an antiseptic such as iodine, rubbing alcohol or soap and water.