Lyme disease is among the most predominant vector-borne illnesses in the world currently. This disease is caused by Borrelia mayonii and Borrelia Burgdorfer. Its transmission to human beings is mainly a result of a bite from infected black-legged ticks commonly found in parks across the country. The primary symptoms of Lyme disease include extreme fatigue, headache, fever, and erythema migraines, and a common characteristic skin rash (MacDonald et al., 2017). If treatment is delayed or not provided at all, the infection could spread to other body parts, particularly the nervous system, the heart, and joints. The illness is mainly diagnosed considering the physical findings, symptoms, and the probability of an individual’s exposure to infected ticks. If used as per the required directions, laboratory testing is an effective tool to evaluate the overall nature of the illness. An understanding of Lyme disease’s natural history, epidemiology, treatment, and prevention is crucial to address the condition.
Lyme disease and ticks have been a common occurrence for several years. Due to this, the history of the illness is traced back to the late 1900s. In the 1970s, a number of both adults and children in Lyme, Connecticut, and the adjacent areas suffered from a strange and debilitating health concern. Strnad et al. (2017) point out that the leading symptoms of the health concern exhibited by these individuals included headaches, chronic fatigue, paralysis, skin rashes, and swollen knees. Most families were not diagnosed and treated during this period since the disease was not given the much-needed attention. The persistence of two parents from Connecticut played a crucial role in bringing the illness to light. The parents took responsibility and started taking notes, conducting research, and contacting scientists in a desperate attempt to understand the disease in detail. The persistence by the group inspired different medical institutions to study the symptoms by the group and further provided other possible causes.
In the 1980s, physicians used extensive backgrounds on the disease and patients and started to use multiple antibiotics to treat Lyme disease. The treatment is still accepted today and has had significant success, particularly for patients with early phases of the illness. Nonetheless, there are debates on the prolonged use of antibiotics for the disease that has advanced or is resistant to antibiotics (Kugeler et al., 2021). Since the 1890s, there have been increased cases of Lyme disease to the point that this disease became an essential public health concern and was included as a top ten notifiable disease by the CDC in 2012 (Strnad et al., 2017). Currently, Lyme disease is among the fastest-growing vector-borne disease in the U.S. and the world as well.
Generally, Lyme disease is a commonly reported ailment caused by ticks in the U.S. and Europe at large. The disease was initially clinically recognized in 1977 as Lyme arthritis. This discovery resulted from studies of a cluster of Connecticut children that were previously perceived to have juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Lyme disease has so far been recognized in 49 states across the U.S., with approximately 90% of all the cases occurring from Virginia to Maine and Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota (MacDonald et al., 2017). Lyme disease is also prevalent on the West Coast, with the majority of the cases evident in Oregon and northern California. Studies have also pointed out that Lyme disease also occurs in Europe, particularly in the former Soviet Union, Japan, and China. Therefore, this demonstrates that the disease is commonly found in the upper Great Lakes Region and northern states of the U.S.
In the U.S., the disease is caused by Borrelia burgdorferi as the leading causal agent. However, the Borrelia mayonii also causes the disease but to a lesser extent. The later causal agent was recently identified in the upper Midwestern states of the U.S. In Asia and country in Europe, Lyme disease is majorly caused by either Borrelia burgdorferi, Borrelia garinii, or Borrelia afzelii (Sprong et al., 2018). The onset is commonly in the early fall and summer. The majority of the patients are usually young adults and children that reside in heavily wooded regions. In the U.S., the leading animal reservoir for Borrelia Burgdorfer is the white-footed mouse that also acts as its host for both larval and nymphal forms. Dears often host adult ticks even though they are not carriers for Borrelia. Other specific mammals, such as dogs, could be incidental hosts and could develop the disease.
Antibiotics commonly treat Lyme disease, and its recovery is always quicker and after the start of treatment. Oral antibiotics are the standard treatment for the early phase of the disease. According to Rebman & Aucott (2020), oral antibiotics in the treatment of Lyme disease involve doxycycline for children over the age of eight and adults. Amoxicillin or cefuroxime is also used as a standard treatment for pregnant women, younger children, and adults. The recommended treatment of antibiotics includes a fourteen to twenty-one-day course. However, different studies highlight that courses between ten and fourteen days are correspondingly practical. Intravenous antibiotics are also used in the treatment of Lyme disease. If the disease has progressed to the central nervous system, intravenous antibiotics are used for fourteen to twenty-eight days. This treatment is efficient in dealing with the infection, although the patient would require a relatively long time to recover from the existing symptoms.
Intravenous antibiotics often present specific side effects to the patient, such as mild to severe diarrhea, a reduced white blood cell count, or colonization. After a patient completes the treatment, they might have certain symptoms like fatigue and muscle aches. Physicians are unable to determine the reason behind the continuing symptoms after treatment, and additional treatment using antibiotics is ineffective. Although antibiotics are the only proven treatment for this condition, there are alternative treatments that individuals often use. Unfortunately, these alternative treatments are not proven by scientific evidence or have not undergone practical tests. In most instances, the alternative treatment methods could be harmful, and patients are advised to consult health professions before using them.
Since Lyme disease is caused by tick bites found in deer, one practical approach to preventing the disease is creating a tick-free zone. Several methods could be adopted to create a tick-free area. For example, individuals must keep their lawns well-manicured at all times and create a tick barrier between tall grasses and the lawn. Tick barriers could include a several-foot-wide wood strip to separate the lawn from the yard’s wilder edges (Eisen, 2021). This prevention mechanism could also be done by the application of automatic tickicide stations to kill ticks around homes. Additionally, ticks obtain Lyme disease from mice; therefore, it is essential to eradicate mice from the yard and rock piles where they commonly breed. This provides an effective approach to dealing with all types of ticks and preventing Lyme disease.
Lyme disease can also be prevented by wearing protective clothing and using insect repellant. In this case, wearing long shirts, long pants, and lightweight clothes when walking through wild areas helps to protect against tick bites on an individual’s legs and arms. For extra protection, it is advisable to apply pesticides such as permethrin on clothes. This pesticide will help to protect one from tick bites. Insect repellent could also be applied to exposed skin every two to three hours when a person hikes in an insect-infested area. Another prevention approach to Lyme disease is performing tick checks regularly. It is crucial to remove a tick as soon as possible before it transmits Lyme disease. Persons can inspect each other for tick bites, especially when coming from a wild area; this ought to include removing ticks immediately. Adopting these strategies will play an essential role in preventing Lyme disease.
Lyme disease is a relatively predominant vector-borne disease in the U.S. and Europe. It is transmitted to human beings by Borrelia mayonii and Borrelia burbgorferi in ticks that are commonly found in the Northern hemisphere regions. Although clinical features are diverse, death is a rare occurrence from the disease. The risk among human beings is often determined by the distribution of vector tick species, different human behaviors that tend to encourage tick bite, and ecologic factors influencing tick infection rates. Borrelia mayonii and Borrelia burbgorferi are the main causal agent with oral antibiotics and intravenous antibiotics treating Lyme disease.
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Strnad, M., Hönig, V., Růžek, D., Grubhoffer, L., & Rego, R. O. (2017). Europe-wide meta-analysis of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato prevalence in questing Ixodes ricinus ticks. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 83(15), e00609-17. Web.