Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that can be contracted from the black-legged, or deer tick. Deer ticks look like small dog ticks. This disease occurs in both North America and in Europe, although different species of deer tick are usually responsible for spreading it.
The symptoms of Lyme disease look different in every person. However, they can commonly include a bulls-eye shaped rash spreading out from the site of the bite, and flu-like symptoms. Later cases of Lyme disease may also display musculoskeletal, neurological, cardiac, arthritic, and mental symptoms. It is possible for people who develop late stage Lyme disease to develop disabilities, and the further along the disease is allowed to progress, the harder it is to treat. However, in the early stages, Lyme disease can usually be defeated with antibiotics. Some symptoms may continue after treatment, possible as a form of auto-immune response, since the disease has been eliminated.
Lyme disease was first recorded in the late 1880s in Germany, and formally documented in 1909. Penicillin came into use as a treatment for the disease in the late 1940s. Lyme disease’s popular name comes from Lyme and Old Lyme, towns in Connecticut where it was observed in 1975. In rare cases, mothers can pass Lyme disease to their fetuses while pregnant. This tends to result in a stillbirth. There have also been some reports of the disease being passed to humans by biting insects such as flies. Anecdotal reports claim that it can be passed sexually, but there is as of now no documented case of Lyme disease being transmitted this way.
Deforestation is one reason for the increase of Lyme disease infections in humans. Suburban expansion has brought more contact between humans and areas which harbor many ticks, and has removed a number of the more common predators of harbors for those ticks (deer, chipmunks, etc). This means that the population of animals which can support Lyme carrying ticks is higher than ever, and humans are at increased risk.
Lyme disease is the most common disease in North America that is spread by ticks. It is one of the fastest growing infectious conditions. Prevention of infection can be done by avoiding areas where ticks are found. Wear clothing that covers the entire body when entering such an area, and check the body carefully for ticks afterward. If you suspect that you may have Lyme disease, see a doctor immediately for treatment.