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Lyme Disease Still a Threat to Many States This Summer

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At this point, hypersensitivity reactions -- similar to allergic reactions -- are the only changes that might be made to the vaccine's physician labeling, says Gelb.

"We know there is a controversy out there," says Carmel Hogan, spokesperson for Glaxo SmithKline. "But all our surveillance data and evidence from our clinical trials establishes LYMErix to be safe and effective. Our position hasn't changed."

The company is embarking on a phase IV, or postmarketing, clinical trial of the vaccine, to comply with all FDA requirements, Hogan tells WebMD. Thus far, 4,000 people have been identified with a goal of enrolling 15,000.

"We continue to monitor this," says Hogan. "But we currently have no scientific evidence to suggest that any [serious side effects] exist beyond those which has already been included on the label."

While investigations continue on the vaccine front, it's a good idea to be sure you are up on the features of Lyme disease.

A bull's-eye rash is most characteristic, followed a few months later by arthritis as well as brief bouts of pain and swelling in one or more large joints, especially the knees. Lyme disease is not fatal, but it can have long-term effects including destruction of joints and nervous system disorders. However, with early diagnosis and treatment, serious consequences can be kept at bay.

High-risk areas include those where deer and white-footed mice and ticks are abundant, Hayes says. That includes brushy and wooded habitats, especially those where forest edges meet lawns and meadows.

To help prevent Lyme disease, people living in high-risk areas should avoid tick-infested areas, says Hayes. Also, early detection and removal of ticks is important. If it's necessary to go into high risk areas, use repellant and check for ticks at the end of the day.

"Prompt removal of ticks will help avoid infection, because the tick has to be attached for two to three days for infection to occur," he says.

The CDC also is testing bait devices that give deer or rodents a pesticide application, says Hayes. These devices are not yet commercially available.

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