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The Lyme disease is brought about by a bacterium known as spirochete which is found in deer ticks of the Ixodes genus. However, the black-legged ticks transmit the disease on the Pacific Coast. The disease was first identified by Dr. Allen Steere in 1975. This was in Connecticut, United States, close to a community known as Lyme (Vanderhoof-Forschner, 2003). Generally, the disease is transmitted from animals to the humans through the tick bites which are the size of a sesame seed. Though it was not clearly distinguished in the earlier years as the doctors just thought that it was another case of a different arthritis problem, it has emerged to be one of the most common tick-bone diseases in the United States.
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The year 2006 witnessed the reporting of around 19,931 new cases. The years between 1996 and 2001 had about 17,000 new cases per year but later shot to around 20,000 cases in the year 2002 most likely due to increased investigations and exposure.
Who gets affected?
Though this disease is mostly in the United States of America, there are certain areas that are more affected than others. The most cases have been reported from Massachusetts to Maryland which is all in the Northeast and the North-central states where Wisconsin and Minnesota are reported. Other areas that have recorded higher cases of this disease more than the usual are Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware, New Jersey and of course, Connecticut. The years between 2003 and 2005 witnessed the exposure of more than 64,382 cases in these states. This same occurrence repeated itself in the year 2006 (Todar, 2008).
Since this is a disease transmitted from animals (e.g. white footed mouse, white tailed deer) to humans, it can be gotten by people of all ages as long as one receives the bite. However, children below 15 years and the adults between 25 and 44 years are most likely to get this disease as they are most likely to spend their time outdoors and are more active.
Is the disease genetic?
Though the disease is brought about by a tick-bite, there are chances that ones genetic factor can increase the chances of the tick-bite resulting into a serious arthritis like disease. As doctors have found out, certain genetic factors increase ones chances of contracting or having the arthritis chronic disease. There are people who get the disease but are cured immediately after getting the appropriate treatment while in others, it emerges years later.
Scientists are yet to verify whether it is genetic or not as they have not yet come into a consensus but by the time they do so, care and precautions should be taken. The ones bitten should make good observations of the area bitten and seek medical attention if there are any unusual reactions around the area of the bite even days after one has been bitten.
Risk factors associated
A risk factor is something that makes the chances of contracting/getting a certain disease get higher. One obvious risk factor is living in areas that are mostly infested by ticks. People, who live in the areas that have a lot of ticks and especially the Ixodes type, stand a higher chance of being bitten by a Lyme disease infected tick. This chance increases if they spend most of their time outdoors.
Ticks are most active during the warmer months and hence are likely to transmit these diseases at this time. As said, those who spend are a lot of their time outdoors are more likely to get this disease hence professions that involve surveying, forestry just to mention but a few, put one at a higher risk. Activities like hiking, camping, hunting just to mention but a few also puts one at a higher risk (Strscheim, 2009).
The ticks that are most likely to have this disease are mostly found in wet areas. Woody and brushy areas are also very good tick habitats.
Cause of the disease
As mentioned earlier, the disease is caused by Borrelia burgdorferi. This is a bacterium that is transmitted from the animals to the humans by a tick. The bacterium cycle involves spending a part of its life in the deer tick, a part in mice but no part of the cycle is spent in humans (Yannielli, Alcamo & Heymann, 2004).
Signs and symptoms
The early stages of the infection are almost unnoticeable. It may start with a small rush (also known as erythema migrans) around the area of the bite or flu kind of feeling. As for the rush, it occurs a few days to a month after the day of the bite. It may begin like a red spot then continue to grow. It may create a ring-like shape as the center of the rush seems to go away. Other people may develop a number of spots around the area of the bite, while others may have multiple rings appearing even though they did not have the multiple bites (Yannielli, Alcamo & Heymann, 2004).
Other signs and symptoms include fever, headaches, fatigue, chills, muscle and joint aches and many others. The flu is at its pick during the warm weather when flu is least likely contracted. The rush even if not treated, may go away on its own but later reappear. When it reappears, it may come along with other symptoms such as facial palsy which is a condition that affects the face causing the muscles to be jagged (Monroe, 2001). Meningitis may also appear nerve inflation which leads to numbness, brain swelling, and feelings of arthritis which may stay for a week. The feelings are normally in the knees and wrists. This may reappear for many weeks and may end up as persistent arthritis. Irritation of the heart may also occur, just to mention but a few.
Though the disease can be diagnosed through a blood test, it is not as effective due to various reasons. If one has taken antibiotics between the time of the bite and the testing, the test will come out negative even though the patient might be positive. However if the patient does not come take any antibiotics, the blood might be used. One of the ways used to diagnose the disease is through monitoring the signs and symptoms and by a doctor asking the patient questions which might guide them to diagnose the disease (Rosner & Schaller, 2007).
This disease can be treated using antibiotics. One of the antibiotics used is doxycycline. Additional antibiotics may be needed to patients who are at the later stages of the disease and those who have recurring episodes of the symptoms (Strascheim, 2009). The LYMErix vaccine has been used since 1998. It has been used to people in the ages between 15 and 70 years.