STANFORD (KRON) — Anyone who’s walked their dog or hiked along a trail in the Bay Area has probably had at least one run in with ixodes pacificus, better known as the western black-legged tick.
These eight legged insects are also a known vector for carrying the pathogen that causes Lyme disease, a bacterial illness that if left untreated can lead to serious health problems.
The disease has long been associated with ticks on the east coast, but a new study by Stanford University shows that infected ticks are more common in the Bay Area that previously thought.
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The researchers were surprised to find ticks infected with one or both bacteria in nearly every park they examined. The findings raise the question of whether B. miyamotoi has gone undetected in California residents.
The research results are “an important step toward dispelling the perception that you cannot acquire Lyme disease in California,” said Ana Thompson, the executive director of the Bay Area Lyme Foundation.
Researchers also found ticks that were carrying a second newly discovered human pathogen that has unknown health consequences.
Thompson says that anyone visiting open spaces in the Bay Area can take some very basic precautions to avoid coming in contact with ticks.
ABOUT LYME DISEASE (source: http://www.cdc.gov)
Signs and Symptoms of Lyme Disease
If you had a tick bite, live in an area known for Lyme disease or have recently traveled to an area where it occurs, and observe any of these symptoms, you should seek medical attention!
Early localized stage (3-30 days post-tick bite)
Red, expanding rash called erythema migrans (EM)
Fatigue, chills, fever, headache, muscle and joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes
Some people may get these general symptoms in addition to an EM rash, but in others, these general symptoms may be the only evidence of infection.
Some people get a small bump or redness at the site of a tick bite that goes away in 1-2 days, like a mosquito bite. This is not a sign that you have Lyme disease. However, ticks can spread other organisms that may cause a different type of rash. For example, Southern Tick-associated Rash Illness (STARI) causes a rash with a very similar appearance.
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.
How to remove a tick
– Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
– 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.
– After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.
Avoid folklore remedies such as “painting” the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly, or using heat to make the tick detach from the skin. Your goal is to remove the tick as quickly as possible–not waiting for it to detach.
Patients treated with appropriate antibiotics in the early stages of Lyme disease usually recover rapidly and completely. Antibiotics commonly used for oral treatment include doxycycline, amoxicillin, or cefuroxime axetil. Patients with certain neurological or cardiac forms of illness may require intravenous treatment with drugs such as ceftriaxone or penicillin.
For detailed recommendations on treatment, consult the 2006 Guidelines for treatment developed by the Infectious Diseases Society of America.External Web Site Icon
Approximately 10-20% of patients (particularly those who were diagnosed later), following appropriate antibiotic treatment, may have persistent or recurrent symptoms and are considered to have Post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS). The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has funded several studies on the treatment of Lyme disease which show that most patients recover when treated with a few weeks of antibiotics taken by mouth. For details on research into what is sometimes referred to as “chronic Lyme disease” and long-term treatment trials sponsored by NIH, visit the NIH Lyme Disease web site.External Web Site Icon
Additional information on prolonged treatment for Lyme disease is also available.
Preventing Tick Bites
Reducing exposure to ticks is the best defense against Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and other tickborne infections. There are several steps you and your family can take to prevent and control Lyme disease:
In the yard
outline of tick
A Lyme disease vaccine is no longer available. The vaccine manufacturer discontinued production in 2002, citing insufficient consumer demand. Protection provided by this vaccine diminishes over time. Therefore, if you received the Lyme disease vaccine before 2002, you are probably no longer protected against Lyme disease.