Lyme Disease 101

Minnesotans across the state are at risk for acquiring tick-borne diseases. The highest risk is in the southeast, east central and north central areas of the state. Grassy fields, brush-filled wooded landscapes and places where residential neighborhoods meet the forest edge are prime tick habitat. This brochure contains information to help you mitigate your risk for Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.

Ticks Now in Almost Half of U.S. Counties

US Lyme Disease Prevalence Map

CDC

Preliminary estimates released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that the number of Americans diagnosed with Lyme disease each year is around 300,000. read more

MN Dept. of Health

If a patient has an EM highly suggestive of Lyme disease and recent symptom onset (<2-3 weeks), B. burgdorferi antibody tests are not recommended because of low sensitivity at this stage of infection. Read More

Lyme Disease Life Cycle

Lyme Disease Life Cycle

FAQ’s & Common Myths

What is Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is an infection caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. It can involve any system in the body. The brain and central nervous system, peripheral nervous system and musculoskeletal systems are most commonly involved.

Lyme produces a wide array of symptoms. These symptoms vary from patient to patient and an individual’s symptoms often fluctuate – intense one day and almost nonexistent on another.

What are the best ways to protect yourself from contracting Lyme disease?

  1. Use concentrations of 20% Picaridian or 30% DEET on skin
  2. Use Premethrin on clothing, shoes and camping gear
  3. When you return home remove clothing in a designated area, either put in
    a hot dryer or wash and dry clothing. Note that washing alone will not kill ticks.
  4. Shower and be sure to scrub hard to remove any ticks not yet attached
  5. tick check yourself and your loved ones immediately and for several days after every time you return from tick habitat
  6. don’t forget to check your pets for ticks

Other names for the deer tick is the black-legged or bear tick.

Yes

Deer ticks can fly or jump off of trees.

No, they sit on a blade of grass or vegetation and wait for a host to pass by.

No bull's-eye rash = no Lyme disease.

False, about 30% of people never develop an erythema migrans rash. Of those who do, fewer than 20% will develop the “classic” bull’s-eye rash.

Common symptoms of Lyme disease include: fever, headache and joint aches.

True

To avoid ticks, walk in the middle of the trail.

True

Pets, like humans, can contract Lyme disease from ticks.

True. See Kids & Pets.

Lyme disease is not the only disease transmitted by blacklegged ticks.

True, you can also acquire different diseases from different tick species. Blacklegged ticks can transmit anaplasmosis, babesiosis, Powassan encephalitis, bartonellosis, and B.miyamotoi in addition to Lyme disease.

The best way to remove a tick is by using a pair of tweezers.

True, get as close to the head as possible and gently but firmly pull straight out. Do not squeeze the tick or put Vaseline or irritant on the tick. See Tick Removal.

If you have a negative test that means you do not have Lyme disease.

False, due to a variety of factors, lab tests for Lyme disease are not always reliable. Some people never test positive for Lyme disease even though they are infected. That’s why Lyme disease is a clinical diagnosis – based on a patient’s history and physical exam.

How is Lyme disease treated?

With antibiotics

Do ticks have life stages?

Ticks have four life stages: egg, larva, nymph and adult.  Ticks may feed on hosts that harbor Lyme disease bacteria three times during their life cycle. You can acquire Lyme disease from the nymph and adult stage when they feed on you.

What are the most common hosts for Lyme disease?

Typical hosts include mice, squirrels, rabbits, ground-feeding birds and deer.

Do you feel a tick bite?

Because deer ticks are tiny, nymphs are the size of a poppy seed, and a tick bite is painless, many people do not realize they’ve been bitten.

If you get a rash (erythema migrans) when does it usually appear?

The rash usually appears 2 to 30 days after the bite.  A Lyme rash will often disappear on its own without treatment, but may linger for quite some time. It may reappear later as a single rash or emerge as multiple rashes.

What does the rash typically look like?

Roughly 80% of all EMs are solid red ovals. The “bull’s eye” or target-like rash is the easiest EM to recognize, but it’s not commonly seen.

What other diseases is Lyme commonly misdiagnosed as?

MS, ALS, ADHD, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, Parkinson’s or mental illness.

How many different strains of spirochetes have been identified to date in the US and world wide?

Eight different species and over three hundred strains of spirochetes that cause Lyme disease and Lyme-like symptoms have been identified world wide. To date, more than 100 different strains have been identified in the US.

Can Lyme disease cause urologic problems?

Yes, urologists may not realize that recurring bladder infections or swollen testicles can be caused by spirochetal organisms.

If a patient previously had Lyme disease and is bitten by another infected tick, are they immune to Lyme disease?

No, they are not immune. Multiple bites may expose you to a number of tick-borne diseases in addition to the same or new strains of Lyme disease.

Can I still have Lyme after treatment?

Yes, treatment sometimes fails and symptoms and/or signs of the infection may persist or progress. If that should happen, another course of antibiotics may be necessary. Often, the use of a different antibiotic or lengthier treatment can provide symptomatic relief.

What blood tests should I have?

Depending on the circumstances, blood tests are not always appropriate. In cases of a known tick bite or when an EM rash is present, testing is not helpful. That’s because the common Lyme disease tests look for human antibodies to the bacteria and it can take several weeks for those antibodies to appear.

If your symptoms have been present for several weeks or longer, ask your doctor to order IgM and IgG Western Blot tests. There are also labs specializing in testing for tick-borne infections. One such lab is IGeneX in California.

On the Western Blot test which bands are specific for Lyme disease?

No one can claim that any band is specific for Borrelia burgdorferi (meaning that a positive band is not the result of cross reactivity with other bacteria). Proving this would require performing Western blots on all other bacterial, viral and parasitic infections to verify that none produce the same antibody bands as Bb.