Lyme Disease Causes
If you live on Long Island, New York, you are at higher risk for contracting Lyme Disease. Ticks carrying Lyme disease are particularly prevalent in the Northeastern United States. Providing yourself with information about the causes of Lyme disease will help protect you and your loved ones.
Being that Lyme disease is transmitted by ticks, be careful when walking through high grass or densely forested areas. Lyme disease is caused mainly by a bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi (B. burgdorferi). Lyme disease was first reported in the United States in the town of Old Lyme, Connecticut, in 1975. In the United States, most Lyme disease infections usually occur in the following areas:
- Northeastern states, from Virginia to Maine including New York’s Nassau and Suffolk counties
- North-central states, mostly in Wisconsin and Minnesota
- West Coast, particularly northern California
The bacteria that causes Lyme disease is transmitted by the deer tick, named because the adult ticks often feed on the blood of deer. Young deer ticks (larvae and nymphs) feed on the blood of rodents, particularly the white-footed mouse. Ticks are usually in the nymph stage when they infect people. Deer do not carry or transmit Lyme disease bacteria, they are only a source of blood for adult ticks to thrive and grow.
The disease is rarely transmitted during short periods of tick attachment. At first, the bacteria starts to multiply at the site of the tick bite. After 3 to 30 days, the bacteria migrates from the site of the bite into the surrounding tissue, causing a rash (EM – erythema migrans), in the shape of a bulls eye or donut. The bacteria enters the bloodstream and spreads to other tissues and organs; such as the skin, heart, nervous system, and joints.
What tick causes Lyme disease?
The ticks that cause Lyme Disease are usually brown and are no bigger than the head of a pin, this makes them hard to spot! How can you contract Lyme Disease from a tick? The only way anyone can contract Lyme Disease from a tick is when you would have been biten by an infected tick. After an infected tick bites you, the bacteria can enter your skin through the bite and eventually go into your blood stream. A deer tick must be attached for 36 to 48 hours in order to transmit Lyme Disease into your blood stream. Usually a good indication that the tick was attached for that period of time is if the tick is large and/or swollen looking. To avoid an infection, it is best to remove the tick as soon as you see it attached to your skin or clothing and call your doctor.
Lyme disease causes in 3 Stages:
- Stage 1: Acute Lyme disease- the infection is contained in one area (usually the location of the bite)
- Stage 2: Cardiac Lyme disease- the bacteria has spread throughout the heart
- Stage 3: Neurological Lyme disease- the bacteria has spread throughout the central nervous system
Risk factors for Lyme disease causes include:
Participating in outdoor activities can increase the chance of tick exposure (for example; gardening, hunting, or hiking)
Having a pet that may carry ticks inside
Walking around in high grasses or wooded areas
Observing deer or mice/rodents near where you live,work, or play
Having exposed skin when in wooded or grassy areas
Not checking your skin/hair after outdoor activities
Important facts about tick bites and Lyme disease:
Black legged ticks can be so small that they are almost impossible to see. Many people with Lyme disease never even saw a tick on their body!
Most people who are bitten by a tick do not get Lyme disease.
How to keep Ticks off you!
Items you will need to keep ticks off you would be: a pair of fine-tipped tweezers, rubbing alcohol, tissues/napkins, soap, cotton balls, and a container with a lid.
- First, soak a cotton ball in rubbing alcohol and sterilize the tweezers. (If you have no rubbing alcohol, thoroughly wash the tweezers in soap and warm water)
- Grasp the tick with the tweezers as close to your skin as possible. Do not grasp too hard (you don’t want to crush the tick)
- Pull upwards, not sideways, with a steady, even force. Do not try to twist or jerk the tick
- Place the tick in the container, and stuff a tissue on top of it. Add a little rubbing alcohol to kill any bacteria. Seal the container and dispose of it carefully
- When the tick is removed, clean the affected area of your skin with an iodine scrub, rubbing alcohol, or soap and warm water. Wash your hands thoroughly
- If the tick bite area remains sore or red after a few days, contact your doctor
***When removing the tick:
Make sure you do not touch the tick with a hot match, cover it (with petroleum jelly or nail polish), or try to freeze it off. These strategies will most likely force the tick to burrow deeper and make it harder to get it out. If the tick burrows deeper, you are more likely to become infected.
No matter where you live in New York or any state with prevalent ticks, understanding the causes of lyme disease is key to long term health. It is important that you seek medical attention right away if you do come into contact with a tick. If you are looking for an experienced Lyme Disease Specialist on Long Island, Dr. Kavesteen has three convenient locations in both Nassau and Suffolk counties (Plainview, Middle Island, and North Babylon, NY).
Samuels DS; Radolf, JD, eds. (2010). “Chapter 6, Structure, Function and Biogenesis of the Borrelia Cell Envelope”. Borrelia: Molecular Biology, Host Interaction and Pathogenesis. Caister Academic Press. ISBN 978-1-904455-58-5.
Stanek G, Reiter M (2011). “The expanding Lyme Borrelia complex – clinical significance of genomic species”. Clin Microbiol Infect 17 (4): 487–93. doi:10.1111/j.1469-0691.2011.03492.x. PMID 21414082.