First diagnosed in 1975, Lyme Disease was initially an isolated risk usually restricted to the Northeast United States, primarily effecting hunters or other who with frequent exposure to animals infected by the deer tick. Today, due to an explosive spread of the deer tick itself, almost anyone who spends any amount of time outdoors – even local parks or their own backyard. Current estimates claim that as many as 300,000 Americans are affected every year. Take my home state of Pennsylvania for example, although the Keystone State is a big deer hunting area and home to one of the largest outbreaks of the disease gardeners in Philadelphia are at just as much risk as hunters in Tioga County. The deer tick is found in every county and every community, meaning everyone has the possibility of becoming a victim.
Due to the wide spread habitat of the deer tick the original means of prevention, avoidance of outdoor areas, is no longer valid. Unless you are planning on living in a bubble avoidance is no longer an issue. Instead you need to take steps to mitigate exposure. Wearing long trousers, tucked into your socks/boots paired with a long sleeve shirt is the first defense. Research has found that light colored clothing not only reduces the attraction to deer tick but also makes it easier to see tick that do crawl on you prior to their getting under your protective layers. You can increase your protection by using a quality insect repellant, containing DEET, during outdoor activities during peak periods of tick activity. Finally, you should be careful about transferring ticks to your home, cabin or tent by conducting a thorough inspection of all clothing and even shaking each piece out prior to taking it inside.
Of course there is no protective measure that performs 100%. Despite wearing the best clothing possible and using insect repellant from head to toe there is rarely a hunting trip or hike into the woods after which I do not find a tick on my clothing if not my skin. This is why it is vital you perform self-examination after every single trip, to either locate ticks prior to being bitten or identify when bite has taken place so you can seek medical attention. Most victims will observe a red rash resembling a bull’s eye following an invested bite although approximately 25% of invested bites do not display any rash. As the disease develops symptoms can vary greatly and is known to affect multiple body systems including the nervous system, the respiratory system, heart, eyes and joints. One of the greatest dangers associated with the disease is its frequent misdiagnosis which often leads to extended periods of improper and ineffective treatments.
If you believe you have been exposed to an infected Deer Tick it is vital that you not only seek medical attention but do so from a doctor experienced with its treatment. If diagnosed with the disease you must follow all the doctor’s instructions and seek a second opinion of not satisfied with the treatment. Left untreated the disease can progress from an annoyance to disabling very quickly.