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Another Lyme Season is over! You’ve Made It!

By John T. Raffalli, MD FACP | Infectious Disease

Lyme disease is spread by blacklegged ticks called Ixodes scapularis during spring and summer.  The ticks can only spread Lyme disease during one part of their life: when they are nymphs.  Not every nymph, however, spreads Lyme; as a matter of fact, most do not!


Ticks are born in the spring and feed for one year as larvae before becoming nymphs the following spring.  From spring (late April) to late summer (August) the nymphs are looking for and taking blood meals and can spread Lyme disease.


So, the blacklegged tick transmits the Lyme bacteria for only a few months of its two-year-long life.  The tick needs to take a 36- 48 hour long blood meal to transmit Lyme.  A tick will wait in long grass or other vegetation for a host to come along and will then get on board and find a place to feed.  It likes to go to a warm part of our body, like folds in the groin or behind a knee.  Removing embedded ticks does help to prevent getting Lyme disease.


If you find a blacklegged tick on you, remove it and put it in a small container with rubbing alcohol and bring it to your doctor.  The tick can be identified and tested for the presence of the Lyme bacteria.  Within 72 hours of a tickbite, adult patients may be candidates to receive a single dose of antibiotic to prevent Lyme infection.  Discuss with your doctor to see if this applies to you.


In the summertime, we generally see early Lyme disease.  Untreated or undertreated Lyme disease can become asymptomatic .  Years later, these patients may present with manifestations of late Lyme disease.  These late manifestations can present at any time of year, but early manifestations only occur in spring- summer.


September is here and the nymph ticks have become adults which are considerably larger.  A large tick cannot embed and take a long blood meal without being noticed; it does not spread Lyme disease.  This is the end of Lyme season.


If you have any questions regarding Lyme disease, ask your doctor.