Lyme Disease Is Now More Common Than HIV: Here’s How To Keep It At Bay

ticks lyme disease
Lyme Disease, one of summertime’s biggest health risks, is on the rise. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports incidences of Lyme Disease surpassed those of HIV in 2009. This is sad news given that a few simple safety precautions can greatly reduce your risk for contracting this serious illness.

While the protocol for disease prevention is very much in our public health collective consciousness, it never hurts to take a refresher course. So here are the deets. (And don’t forget to grab some DEET!)

We live in a world where a creature the size of a breadcrumb has the potential to completely destroy your health. I apologize for being such a downer. So here’s the deal: Some deer ticks (also known as blacklegged ticks), become infected after feeding on a mammal that’s carrying Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria responsible for the transmission of Lyme Disease. If one of those lucky buggers bites you the bacteria can end up in your system and make you sick.

If you spend lots of time in the great outdoors you should have these items on-hand:

  • Your eyes! The first step in prevention is thorough inspection. Check your legs, arms and shoulders. Ticks also like to hang out in hard to see places such as the groin, armpits and scalp.
  • Bug spray. The CDC recommends you select a bottle of smelly repellent that contains 20-30 percent DEET.
  • A pair of fine-tipped tweezers for proper tick removal.
  • Soap and water to clean the infected area and your hands after tick removal.
  • Rubbing alcohol is also useful to clean the bite—though not completely necessary.

Optional: A magnifying glass for the more advanced—and OCD—tick inspector.

If you find a tick there’s no reason to freak out but you should remove it right away. “Most ticks need to feed for hours before they can successfully transmit infections,” said Jorge Parada, the National Pest Management Association’s medical spokesperson. “If removed promptly, the risk of infection decreases significantly.”

The CDC has very clear instructions for safe and effective tick removal.

Dr. Michael Zimring, an internist at Mercy Medical Center and the director of the Center for Wilderness and Travel Medicine says typically if you remove a tick in less than 36 hours the likelihood of contracting Lyme Disease is fairly small. Longer than that and it’s probably best to see a doctor for a 200 mg shot of doxycycline, a common antibiotic, said Dr. Zimring, who is the coauthor of the book, Healthy Travel: Don’t Travel Without It! He added acute Lyme Disease is treated with a three-week course of doxycycline.

(If you’re prone to yeast infections, be sure to mention this to your doctor since a long course of antibiotics could lead to another very unpleasant health problem.)

Lyme Disease presents as flu-like symptoms, which include fever, headache and fatigue. In addition, a rash in the shape of a bull’s eye, known as the erythema migrans, forms at the site of the tick bite.

Long term, if left untreated, Lyme Disease will cause neurological, cardiac and joint problems, that include heart arrhythmias, cognitive nerve disorders, facial nerve problems.

Photo: John Tann

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    • Alexander Davis

      Lyme disease is commonly missed because most people don’t see the poppy-seed-sized tick that infects them, and the rash can also easily be missed since it can be subtle and in an obscure location. Deer ticks carry not only Lyme disease but also babesiosis and anaplasmosis, both of which can be fatal. Deer are the primary source of the deer ticks since 90-95% of adult egg-laying ticks feed on deer. They cannot feed on mice. Ticks from one deer produce at least 450,000 tick eggs per season. This is why the best way to combat Lyme is to go after the deer. Cornell wildlife expert Paul Curtis has stated that decreasing the deer population to 6-8 deer per square mile is necessary to decrease tick density to a reasonable level. Rule of thumb: when you see deer, think deer ticks.

    • Savannah Brentnall

      You should also mention that about 20% of people infected DON’T get the bullseye rash. I didn’t, but luckily I’d seen the ticks so when I came down with the other symptoms, I was able to get the antibiotics quickly.

    • Dolores Claesson

      Ticks do not need to be attached for the period mentioned above and not all people either find the tick or get the bulls eye or EM rash. Many people go for decades not knowing the cause of their health problems and are being mis-diagnosed on a daily basis. Physicians do not even consider or think of tickborne pathogens when they are trying to diagnose a problem. Their knowledge is lacking when it comes to zoonotic diseases. Infectious disease physicians who should have some inkling as to zoonotic infectious diseases also have no idea of the signs and symptoms either. Therein lies one of the problems. Lyme disease is a clinical diagnosis because the testing is also inadequate and the Amer Red Cross Blood Services realizes that all current testing for Babesiosis, another tick borne disease is not reliable. Research funds need to be directed in the right places so we can get some answers as to how to eradicate these infections before they compromise the immune system. Lyme patients are so immune compromised that they show up with the opportunistic infections of AIDS patients. This is a disastrous situation that is being ignored and will only get worse.

    • Dolores Claesson

      ‘Lymies…I would get all these tests…Western Blot for Borrelia, also test for Borrelia hermsii, and Babesia duncani and microti and Quest can test for duncani, Bartonella henselae and quintana, Brucella, Tularemia, Coxiella burnetti or Q fever, many rickettsias ie Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Typhus, Ehrlichia, Anaplasma phagocytophilum, EBV, CMV, all Coxsackie viruses, and now Powassan virus and its cousin Deer Tick Virus, HSV 1 and 2, HHV 1-8 if available. Parvovirus B -19 papillomaviruses, Toxoplasmosis, Chlamydias and Mycoplasmas and get genetic tests for hypercoagulation like Mthfr and Factor V leiden, and test all your IgG subclasses 1-4, and CD 57 and C3a and C4a and CBS mutations and HPU/KPU and mold testing since so many of us have issues with mold. ECP or eoisonophil cationic protein seems to suggest to docs that you have babesia. Also transfer growth factor b-1 and Beta Strep. High CD 57 counts may be associated with Beta Strep. Heavy metals have a part in this and we are low in Secosteroid D or vitamin D and some are low in Potassium and others iron. Many are deficient in all amino acids. Our hormones are a mess and the whole HPA Hypothalmic pituitary axis is the problem. We can have probs with our adrenals and thryoid…we do not convert T4 to T3 and in my case I have high reverse T3 or rT3. We are quite low in testosterone as well. Check out every hormone in your body, amino acids and vitamins and minerals. There are over 100 viruses we can get from a tick and also many parasites. The labs that insurance covers can’t find a parasite when we can see it under the microscope. Quest at Nichols Institute in Valencia California can culture samples and might even be able to distinguish Brucella suis from melitensis or arbortus. We also need an MRI of our brain with and without contrast. Many lymies are showing up with pituitary adenomas and pheomchromocytomas. Make sure that you do not have these. I have spent years trying to figure out what is in us and so far this is what I have seen. Unfortunately when your physician may take years to order all the necessary tests. Make sure you get tested sooner rather than later. One more thing … may get tested for Brucella today and 2 years from now may show up IgM positive. The immune system is overwhelmed with all these pathogens.’See More

    • Dolores Claesson

      Wien Klin Wochenschr. 2003;115 Suppl 3:61-7.

      [Sero-epidemiological studies of zoonotic infections in hunters--comparative analysis with veterinarians, farmers, and abattoir workers].

      [Article in German]

      Deutz A, Fuchs K, Nowotny N, Auer H, Schuller W, Stünzner D, Aspöck H, Kerbl U, Köfer J.


      Fachabteilung 8C – Veterinärwesen beim Amt der Steiermärkischen Landesregierung, Graz.


      The aim of this study was to investigate seroprevalences to zoonotic pathogens in hunters, to compare the results with other predisposed occupational groups already investigated and to propose preventive measures. Blood samples were taken from 146 male and 3 female hunters from the provinces of Styria and Burgenland in the south-east of Austria and anamnestic data were obtained using a questionnaire. The serological investigations included the following bacterial, viral and parasitic zoonotic agents or zoonoses, respectively (antibody prevalence rates in brackets): borreliosis (IgG 42%, IgM 7%), brucellosis (1%), chlamydiosis (3%), ehrlichiosis (IgG 15%, IgM 3%), leptospirosis (10%), tularaemia (3%), Q fever (0%), encephalomyocarditis virus (EMCV, 15%), Puumala-Hantavirus (10%), Newcastle Disease virus (4%), Echinococcus multilocularis/E. granulosus (5%/11%), toxocariasis (17%). Particularly striking in comparison with the control group and the veterinarians, farmers and slaughterhouse workers examined in earlier projects were the high seroprevalences to Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, Ehrlichia spp., Leptospira interrogans, E. granulosus and E. multilocularis, encephalomyocarditis, Puumala-Hantavirus and Newcastle Disease virus as well as to Brucella abortus and Francisella tularensis. The present study indicates that hunters are especially exposed to zoonotic pathogens.

    • Dolores Claesson

      Veterinary CareersPublic HealthPage Content


      Disease precautions for hunters

      June 14, 2010

      Print version

      This paper is intended to be a general guide about diseases that hunters and their hunting dogs may encounter. Links to additional information have been provided where appropriate. Hunters should always consult their physician if they are concerned they have been exposed to a disease or are showing symptoms of illness. If there are any concerns that your hunting dog or any other companion animal may have contracted any of these diseases, please contact your veterinarian.


      Protecting Hunters from Risk: Some Common Sense Guidelines


      · Anaplasmosis

      · Avian Influenza

      · Babesiosis

      · Brucellosis

      · Campylobacteriosis (Campylobacter jejuni)

      · Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)

      · Cryptosporidiosis

      · Deer Parapoxvirus

      · Hydatid Tapeworms (Echinococcosis)

      · Ehrlichiosis

      · Equine Encephalitis Viruses

      · Escherichia coli Infection (E. coli)

      · Giardiasis

      · Hantavirus

      · Leptospirosis

      · Lyme Disease (Lyme borreliosis)

      · Plague

      · Q fever

      · Rabies

      · Raccoon Roundworm (Baylisascaris procyonis)

      · Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (tick-borne typhus fever) and other spotted fevers

      · Salmonellosis (Salmonella species)

      · Sarcoptic mange

      · Toxoplasmosis

      · Trichinellosis (trichinosis)

      · Tuberculosis

      · Tularemia

      · West Nile Virus

      Specific Risks Associated with International Hunting

      · Chikungunya

      · Crimean Congo hemorrhagic fever

      · Rift Valley Fever virus

      Go to and you can see more information…