What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is an infectious disease caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. It can be transmitted to humans via a bite from an infected tick.
Early symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and a distinctive “bullseye” rash. Left untreated, Lyme disease can affect the whole body including eyes, joints, heart and brain.
Only some species of ticks are capable of being infected by the Borrelia bacteria and only these infected ticks can pass the infection on to humans. These ticks are commonly found in parts of Asia, Europe and North America. Related ticks occur in Australia but these have not been shown to be infected with Lyme disease Borrelia bacteria. The tests to diagnose Lyme disease are technically complex and require specialist expertise. Lyme disease is diagnosed based on symptoms, physical findings (such as a characteristic rash called erythema migrans), and the possibility of exposure to infected ticks. Laboratory testing is helpful in the later stages of disease. Because of the controversy surrounding diagnosis, it’s not known how many people in the Australasia region are suffering from Lyme, or a Lyme-like, disease. One of the common frustrations of Lyme sufferers is that, without a diagnosis, treatment is difficult to prescribe.
What to do if you are bitten by a tick
Whether or not a tick is infected with the bacteria, ticks do pose a recognised health threat. Humans can experience tick paralysis or allergic reactions including anaphylactic shock from a tick bite.
Here are five tips to help with the tricky task of tick removal:
- Don’t try to pull the tick out with your fingers.
- Kill the tick in place by applying a “freeze spray” typically used for wart treatment.
- The dead tick will fall out naturally (or you can use fine-tipped forceps if available).
- Clean and disinfect the tick bite area.
- If you develop flu-like symptoms or the tick bite area gets infected, consult a health professional.