More than 12,500 new cases of lyme disease have been reported in the United States this year. Although it is quite widespread in this country, very little is known about the disease.
Lyme disease takes it's name from the town of Lyme, Connecticut, where it was first seen in 1975. Since then, forty-eight states and the District of Columbia have reported cases of the disease. From this, a geographic pattern can be seen in which cases remain concentrated in the north-eastern, north-central, and pacific-coastal regions.
Lyme disease is a mild to serious bacterial infection transmitted to humans by ticks of the genus Ixodes. The tiny ticks, dubbed "dear ticks", are the size of a pinhead before feeding. When a human is bitten by the infected tick, the spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi enters the bloodstream. Within a few weeks, a bulls-eye rash may appear at the site of the bite. Early symptoms also include fever, malaise, fatigue, headache, chills, and arthralgias. If lyme disease is treated with antibiotics at this point, it usually leaves the victim without side effects. However, if not treated at this time, "late" lyme disease develops. Characteristics of such include: arthritic, neurologic and cardiac manifestations accompanied by heart problems, meningitis, and migratory pains. Late lyme disease requires month-long courses of intravenous antibiotics to relieve the above symptoms.
The diagnosis of lyme disease remains problematic. The symptoms can easily be confused with other diseases, thus, many tests lack reliability and accuracy. However, a standardized two-test approach has recently been developed to serological[ly] test for antibodies for B. burgdorferi.
Lyme disease is usually thought to be transmitted in the wilderness, but cases have also arisen in domestic settings. To avoid lyme disease, early removal of the attached tick is imperative. If the tick is removed within thirty-six hours, B. burgdorferi cannot be transmitted. As of now, there are no known cures for lyme disease, but two vaccinations are currently being tested. With proper treatment and early diagnosis, the ill effects of lyme disease can be avoided.
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