Lyme Disease FAQ

What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is an illness caused by the bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi.

How is Lyme disease spread?
The bacteria are spread by the bite of an infected tick, Ixodes scapularis, commonly known as the deer tick. The tick is about the size of a poppy seed or the period at the end of this sentence when in its nymphal (immature) stage. Not all deer ticks are infected.

Who gets Lyme disease?
Anyone can get Lyme disease; however, it is more prevalent in children < 10 years old.

What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?
Early Lyme disease symptoms include an expanding red ring-like rash that may appear around the area of the tick bite. The rash can resemble a bull's eye with a clearing center and distinct ring around it. Other early symptoms may include flu-like symptoms: fatigue, headache, fever, and achy muscles and joints. Later symptoms may include arthritis, neurologic problems, and heart problems.

How soon do symptoms appear?
The early symptoms of Lyme disease usually occur within the first month after the tick bite. Later symptoms can occur several weeks to several months later.

How is Lyme disease diagnosed?
Lyme disease may be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms can mimic many other disorders. Blood tests can be helpful in the diagnosis of Lyme disease but should not be used exclusively. It is important that medical attention be sought if Lyme disease is a suspected cause of illness.

What is the treatment for Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is easily treated when it is detected in the early stages. Treatment with oral antibiotics, such as doxycycline or amoxicillin, taken for a few weeks are often effective. Intravenous antibiotic treatment may be necessary for patients with late symptoms of Lyme disease.

How can Lyme disease be prevented?
To prevent Lyme disease and other tick-borne infections, the best protection is to avoid contact with ticks. When working or playing outside in areas that ticks inhabit (tall grass and weeds, scrubby areas, woods and leaf litter) you should:

  • Wear light colored clothing (to spot the ticks easily), long sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Create a tick barrier by tucking pants into socks and shirt into pants.
  • Consider using insect repellent, according to manufacturer's instructions, when planning to be outdoors.
  • Check clothing and skin very carefully (especially thighs, groin, arms, underarms, legs and scalp) after being outdoors in tick infested areas and remove any ticks promptly.
  • Wash the area with soap and water and apply an antiseptic when the tick has been removed. Write on a calendar the date you removed the tick and the area of the body from which it was removed. Check that area every day for a month for a red ring-like rash.
  • Be aware of any flu-like symptoms that may appear.
  • Keep your lawn mowed, cut overgrown brush, and clear any leaf litter away from the home.
  • Inspect pets and children daily and remove any ticks found.

How should a tick be removed?
It is important that a tick is removed as soon as it is discovered.

  • Remove the tick as soon as possible using tweezers.
  • Grasp the tick mouth parts as close to the skin as possible and pull the tick out with steady pressure. Do not yank the tick out. Do not crush the ticks body as it may contain infectious fluids.
  • Do not use petroleum jelly, hot matches, nail polish remover, or any other substance to remove a tick. By using these substances, you may actually increase your chance of infection.
  • Thoroughly wash the area of the bite with soap and water and put an antiseptic on it.
  • Check after every 2 to 3 hours of outdoor activity for ticks attached to clothing or skin.The sooner the tick is removed, the lesser the risk of tick-borne infection.
  • Write on the calendar the date you removed the tick and the part of the body it was removed from.
  • Contact your physician for recommendations on testing and treatment.

This fact sheet is for information only and is not meant to be used for self-diagnosis or as a substitute for consultation with a health care provider. If you have any questions about the disease described above or think that you may have this infection, consult a health care provider.

For more information links:
Ag Station PDF on managing ticks on your property:
Website from Ag station on ticks and tick control: