It's Tick Time: Prevent Lyme Disease

U.S. Has About 20,000 Cases of Lyme Disease Per Year, Twice as Many as in 1991

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on June 14, 2007
From the WebMD Archives

June 14, 2007 -- The CDC today announced that reported cases of Lyme diseasehave more than doubled since 1991.

People can get Lyme disease if they're bitten by an infected blackleggedtick (also known as deer tick). Spring and summer are prime time for thoseticks.

The first sign of Lyme disease infection is usually a circular skin rash.Early symptoms of Lyme disease may also include fever, headache, andfatigue.

Untreated Lyme disease may spread to other parts of the body, including themuscles, joints, heart, and nervous system.

There were fewer than 10,000 reported cases of Lyme disease in 1991, whenthe CDC began tracking Lyme disease nationally.

The CDC's latest statistics, gathered from 2003 to 2005, show about 20,000reported cases annually.

"This increase in cases is most likely the result of both a trueincrease in the frequency of the disease as well as better recognition andreporting due to enhanced detection of cases," says Paul Mead, MD, MPH, ina CDC news release.

Mead is a medical epidemiologist with the CDC's Division of Vector-BorneInfectious Diseases.

Lyme Disease in the U.S.

From 2003 to 2005, the CDC got reports of 64,382 people with Lyme disease in46 states and Washington, D.C.

Most cases occurred in the following 10 northeastern, mid-Atlantic, andnorth-central states: Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts,Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin.

Lyme disease was most common among children aged 5 to 14 and adults aged45-54. Cases peaked during summertime.

Preventing Lyme Disease: 14 Tips

Preventing Lyme disease means avoiding tick bites. The CDC's tipsinclude:

  • Avoid areas with lots of ticks. Ticks like wooded, bushy areas with highgrass and lots of leaf litter.
  • Ask your local health department and park or extension service abouttick-infested areas to avoid.
  • Use insect repellent with 20%-30% DEET on adult skin and clothing toprevent tick bites.
  • Wear long pants, long sleeves, and long socks to keep ticks off yourskin.
  • Check your skin and clothes for ticks every day. Remove ticks before goingindoors.
  • In areas where ticks are found, walk in the center of trails to avoidcontact with overgrown grass, brush, and leaf litter.
  • Remove leaf litter and clear tall grasses and brush around homes and at theedges of lawns.
  • Place wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas to restrict tickmigration to recreational areas.
  • Mow the lawn and clear brush and leaf litter frequently.
  • Keep the ground under bird feeders clean.
  • Stack wood neatly and in dry areas.
  • Keep playground equipment, decks, and patios away from yard edges andtrees.
  • Since deer can carry ticks that transmit Lyme disease, discourage deer fromentering your yard.
  • Take extra precautions in May, June, and July, when ticks that transmitLyme disease are most active.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not using repellentscontaining DEET on infants less than 2 months old. Always follow the product'srecommended uses.

CDC behavioral scientist Emily Zielinski-Gutierrez, DrPH, tells WebMD thatchildren younger than 2 months should be kept covered up or use mosquito netsover them, since DEET products aren't recommended for children in that agegroup. She also recommends washing products containing DEET off older childrenbefore bedtime.

A vaccine against Lyme disease used to be available, but it was taken offthe market in 2002, "reportedly because of poor sales," says theCDC.

The vaccine's protection against Lyme disease faded with time. People whogot the Lyme disease vaccine before 2002 "are probably no longer protectedagainst Lyme disease," says the CDC.

Show Sources

SOURCES: CDC, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, June 15, 2007; vol 56: pp 573-576. News release, CDC. CDC: "Lyme Disease Prevention and Control" and "Lyme Disease Symptoms." Emily Zielinski-Gutierrez, DrPH, behavioral scientist, CDC.

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