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It's time to "think Lyme" again.

More cases of Lyme disease appear in July than in any other month, so let us again alert you to its ever-present danger (see March and September 1990 Medical Updates). Named after the city of Lyme, Connecticut (where it was first diagnosed in 1975), this tick-borne infection has spread widely in the United States. Many physicians miss the diagnosis because it mimics other diseases in its later stages.

Pets and farm animals are as susceptible to the disease as humans. Therefore, their owners should examine them frequently for the presence of the tiny Ixodes dammini arachnids found in weeds or tall grass. For humans, the best defense is always a good offense, and that includes using an insect repellent containing DEET on the skin. Also, wear clothes that cover the arms and legs when hiking, picnicking, or otherwise encountering vegetation in which ticks reside.

Doctors can easily and effectively treat the disease with antibiotics when it is caught in its early stage. The first symptom of the disease is often the appearance of a "bulls-eye" rash. If not treated, flulike or other symptoms (such as arthritis, headache, and other neurological manifestations) may occur much later, making both diagnosis and treatment more difficult.

If you find ticks on you, your children, or your pets, remove them (the ticks, that is!), but don't panic. Of course, see your doctor if a rash or flulike symptoms appear within a few weeks. Also, tell him or her that, because of the preceding tick bite, the possibility of Lyme disease concerns you. Laboratory tests for the disease are not yet conclusive. Your doctor may well put you on antibiotics just to be safe, particularly if you have a characteristic rash or live in an area of high incidence of Lyme disease.
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Title Annotation:Lyme disease prevention and treatment
Publication:Medical Update
Date:Jul 1, 1991
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