Lyme Disease Information
Lyme disease is an illness caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in Maryland. Other tick-borne diseases, such as Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis, and Ehrlichiosis also occur in this area. Learn more about other tick-borne diseases.
Lyme disease is spread by black-legged ticks, also called deer ticks. Deer ticks are very small.
Not all deer ticks spread Lyme disease, only those that carry the bacteria.
Early Lyme disease symptoms may include:
- Round red rash around the tick bite, like a bull’s eye with a clear center and a ring around it. Not everyone with Lyme will get this rash.
- Flu-like symptoms – fatigue, headache, fever, and achy muscles and joints.
- Usually occur within the first month after a bite.
Later symptoms may include:
- Nervous system problems
- Heart problems
- Can occur several weeks or months after the bite.
Lyme disease may be hard to diagnose because the symptoms are similar to many other disorders. Blood tests can help with the diagnosis. Health care providers also consider other factors, such as symptoms, history of tick bites, and possible contact with ticks.
The health department does not test ticks or other insects for disease. To find out about tick identification through the University of Maryland Extension and tick testing through other resources, go to Ticks in Maryland.
According to Lyme Disease Laboratory Test Required Notice Bill 39477096:
“Your health care provider has ordered a laboratory test for the presence of Lyme disease for you. Current laboratory testing for Lyme disease can be problematic and standard laboratory tests often result in false negative and false positive results and, if done too early, you may not have produced enough antibodies to be considered positive because your immune response requires time to develop antibodies.
If you are tested for Lyme disease and the results are negative, this does not necessarily mean you do not have Lyme disease. If you continue to experience unexplained symptoms, you should contact your health care provider and inquire about the appropriateness of retesting or initial or additional treatment.”
If you find a tick attached to your skin, there's no need to panic. There are several tick removal devices on the market, but a plain set of fine-tipped tweezers will remove a tick quite effectively.
1. Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin's surface as possible.
2. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don't twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
3. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.
4. Dispose of a live tick by submersing it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet. Never crush a tick with your fingers.
If there is a chance you have Lyme disease or any other tick-borne disease, see your health care provider as soon as possible. Early treatment may help prevent more serious illness.
Post-treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome
Some people have pain, fatigue, and achy muscles and joints even after treatment for Lyme Disease. A small number of people have these symptoms for over 6 months. This is called Post-treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome (PTLDS), though it is sometimes called chronic Lyme disease.
The cause of PTLDS is not yet known. It may be due to damage to tissues and the immune system from the Lyme Disease infection. Studies have not shown that people with PTLDS benefit from long-term antibiotics.
If you think you have PTLDS, work with your health care provider. Make sure you do not have another health issue that is causing your symptoms. Track your symptoms and ask about ways to treat them. Take care of yourself with a healthy diet and enough rest. Remember that people with PTLDS almost always get better, but it can take months.
Learn more from reliable websites, like the CDC and other government health agencies (.gov websites); information on the internet can be inaccurate.