Lyme Disease

All information provided by the Centers for Diseases Control (CDC)

Lyme disease is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected blacklegged tick (deer tick). Lyme disease is one of the fastest growing infectious diseases in the US, with 329,000 new cases each year in the US.

More information on Ticks.

Blacklegged Ticks or Deer Ticks Fact:

Deer ticks are very small, smaller than dog ticks. Deer ticks don’t jump, hop, swim or fly. Deer ticks crawl. They usually grab onto people or animals that brush up against plants near ground level. Ticks live in wooded, brushy areas that provide food and cover for mice, deer and other mammals. The ideal tick environment is humid. Your exposure will be greatest along trails in the woods and fringe areas between woods and the border, where they will wait patiently on the tips of vegetation for an unsuspecting host to walk by. Blacklegged ticks can feed from mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians.


Deer Tick on a human thumb...note the tick is very small !


How ticks spread disease:

The tick feeding process makes ticks very good at transmitting infection:

  • Depending on the tick species and its stage of life, preparing to feed can take from 10 minutes to 2 hours. When the tick finds a feeding spot, it grasps the skin and cuts into the surface. The tick then inserts its feeding tube. Many species also secrete a cement-like substance that keeps them firmly attached during the meal. The feeding tube can have barbs which help keep the tick in place.
  • Ticks also can secrete small amounts of saliva with anesthetic properties so that the animal or person can't feel that the tick has attached itself. If the tick is in a sheltered spot, it can go unnoticed.

  • A blacklegged tick will attach to its host and suck the blood slowly for several days. If the host animal has certain bloodborne infections, such as the Lyme disease agent, the tick may ingest the pathogen and become infected. If the tick later feeds on a human, that human can become infected.
  • After feeding, the blacklegged tick drops off and prepares for the next life stage. At its next feeding, it can then transmit the infection to the new host. Once infected, a tick can transmit infection throughout its life.
  • If you remove a tick quickly (within 24 hours) you can greatly reduce your chances of getting Lyme disease. It takes some time for the Lyme disease-causing bacteria to move from the tick to the host. The longer the tick is attached, the greater the risk of acquiring disease from it.

Early Signs and Symptoms of Lyme Disease (3 to 30 days after tick bite):

  • Fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes
  • Erythema migrans (EM) rash:
    • Occurs in approximately 70 to 80 percent of infected persons
    • Begins at the site of a tick bite after a delay of 3 to 30 days (average is about 7 days)
    • Expands gradually over a period of days reaching up to 12 inches or more (30 cm) across
    • May feel warm to the touch but is rarely itchy or painful
    • Sometimes clears as it enlarges, resulting in a target or “bull’s-eye” appearance
    • May appear on any area of the body
    • See examples of EM rashes
Later Signs and Symptoms (days to months after tick bite)
  • Severe headaches and neck stiffness
  • Additional EM rashes on other areas of the body
  • Arthritis with severe joint pain and swelling, particularly the knees and other large joints.
  • Facial palsy (loss of muscle tone or droop on one or both sides of the face)
  • Intermittent pain in tendons, muscles, joints, and bones
  • Heart palpitations or an irregular heart beat (Lyme carditis)
  • Episodes of dizziness or shortness of breath
  • Inflammation of the brain and spinal cord
  • Nerve pain
  • Shooting pains, numbness, or tingling in the hands or feet
  • Problems with short-term memory

Lyme Disease Diagnose:

Lyme disease is diagnosed based on symptoms, physical findings and the possibility of exposure to the infected ticks; blood tests are also performed to detect the body’s immune response to the infection.  In its early stages, the disease is readily cured with oral antibiotics; however, untreated or inadequately treated infection may progress to late-stage arthritic or nervous system complications requiring intensive therapy. . More on Treatment...

You can protect yourself by following these simple steps when you spend time outdoors:

  • Avoiding tick-infested areas, using insect repellent, removing ticks promptly, and landscaping
  • Wear light-colored clothing with a tight weave to spot ticks easily.
  • Wear enclosed shoes, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt.
  • Tuck pant legs into socks or boots and shirt into pants.
  • Check clothes and any exposed skin frequently for ticks while outdoors and check again once indoors. 
  • Consider using insect repellent. Follow label directions. 
  • Stay on cleared, well-traveled trails. Avoid contacting vegetation. 
  • Avoid sitting directly on the ground or on stonewalls.
  • Keep long hair tied back, especially when gardening.

CDC Resources:

Free brochures on Lyme disease are available through the office of Intercommunity Health Coordination.  Please call 610.891.5311 to request a brochure.

For more information:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

More information on Ticks