Taking my dog for a walk on our property or in the field across the street from our house is one of my favorite ways to relax. There’s one thing I always do once we return from our walks, and that’s checks my dog Fred for ticks, and I check myself too. Over the years he and I have gotten bitten. I typically find them near his foot, and I have found them on my hip and behind my knee from time to time. It’s always terrifying! You want to make sure you remove them completely. Like you, I’m completely and utterly terrified about Lyme disease and want to ensure neither one of us gets it.
According to Dr. Harvey Kaufman of Quest Diagnostics, “the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 300,000 people will be infected this year.” It affects people from all walks of life including celebrities like Yolanda Hadid and Avril Lavigne (to name a few). Thankfully they have helped bring more awareness to Lyme disease by discussing their symptoms and treatment options.
With the weekend nearly upon us, and late summer officially here, many of us will be spending time with family, friends and our pets in the great outdoors! Summer is the perfect time to make memories hiking, camping, and enjoying mother nature without contracting Lyme disease. If you’re heading outside this weekend, you’ll definitely want to check out my interview with Dr. Harvey Kaufman.
He was kind enough to join me for an interview this week to discuss Lyme disease. He dished on everything from what causes it to how quickly one can develop Lyme disease from a tick bite, preventative tips and more!
Dr. Kaufman On What Causes Lyme Disease
Candie Anderson: What is Lyme disease?
Dr. Harvey Kaufman: “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 300,000 people will be infected this year. It’s among the most common infectious diseases. Lyme disease is caused by an infection, by a bacteria, the name of the bacteria is Borrelia burgdorferi. The bacteria is carried by the black-legged tick. In the western part of the United States, it’s the Western black-legged tick.”
Lyme Disease Symptoms
Candie Anderson: How long does a tick need to be attached to you to get Lyme disease? Is it something that is very fast or does it take a long time?
Dr. Harvey Kaufman: “It has to be attached for at least 36 hours. The longer that the tick is attached, the more likely one is to be infected. Only 5% of tick bites lead to Lyme disease.
The first symptoms are often fever, chills, muscle aches, malaise. These are all vague and they are associated with many types of infection. Only one-half of the people diagnosed will recall having a low-grade fever or chills or malaise; four out of five people will cause muscle aches and pain.
More typical is the rash. The rash typically appears 7 – 10 days later and will expand over several days to about three to 12 inches across. The center will stay red, there will be an odor – a ring of red, and a ring in between that’s clear so that the bullseye pattern.
For one out of three people that rash is the only symptom they will recall.”
New Research About Lyme Disease
Candie Anderson: What is research telling us about Lyme disease?
Dr. Harvey Kaufman: “Well, I’ll tell you about our research, so the Quest Diagnostics Health Trends Study shows that the epidemic has been growing dramatically in the last several years. It has spread to a number of states where it has been rare or uncommon. This includes California, Florida.
We saw significant increases in Georgia, Arizona, Ohio, Texas, and Tennessee. What has historically been limited to the New England states, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware has now spread fundamentally to the rest of the country.
In our study, we saw that there are people infected in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.”
Whether Or Not We Can Be Infected Throughout The Year
Candie Anderson: Can you get Lyme disease throughout the year or is it just a few months out of the year?
Dr. Harvey Kaufman: “In those states that I mentioned, especially in the North East, and Michigan and Wisconsin, it’s really spring and summer. But in our data what we saw was it tends to be now year round.
The ticks can reproduce in those areas where there isn’t a freezing period. The adults are also available to infect us throughout the year.”
Dr. Kaufman Talks Health Trends Report Data
Candie Anderson: Where does the information come from to generate the health trends report?
Dr. Harvey Kaufman: “Quest Diagnostics arguably has the largest database of laboratory testing results – more than 44 billion test results. For this study, we pulled out more than six million Lyme disease tests from 2010 through 2017. (Please listen to the audio for more information).
Through the Quest Diagnostics, health trends report we identified nearly 200,000 patients and nearly 36,000 patients in just 2017.”
Areas Where Ticks Are Most Prevalent
Candie Anderson: I live in a rural area. My dog occasionally gets ticks and sometimes I will get them when I walk him. Are there certain areas where ticks are more prevalent?
Dr. Harvey Kaufman: “The mice and the deer and other animals tend to be near grassy woody areas, which is a good place for the ticks to infect.
There are things that we can do to prevent or at least reduce the likelihood of getting Lyme disease. They are all common sense:
How To Prevent Tick Bites and Lyme Disease
- Cover as much skin as reasonable when outside or near grassy, woody areas.
- If it’s not too goofy, tuck the pants inside your socks.
- Use repellents that contain permethrin or apply Deet (always read instructions)
- Don’t apply near the mouth, the eyes, the nose, the hands
- Don’t apply to newborns (read the instructions)
- Walk in the middle of the trail
- Stay away from the grassy areas
- When one comes inside – shower or take a bath
- Use a mirror to get the full body look over, especially in children
- Check the scalp, behind the knees, between their legs, around their ears, beneath their arms
- Inspect the clothes – put the clothes in the dryer, set at a high heat setting and tumble dry for an hour. The cold and warm water won’t be effective.
Those things will reduce the likelihood of getting a tick bite.”
What To Do If You Find A Tick On You Or Your Pet
Candie Anderson: What should people do if they find a tick on themselves?
Dr. Harvey Kaufman: “On themselves, on a child or one’s pet – one is don’t panic. Don’t rush to yank it out. Think carefully because there are some steps one should take.
Get a fine tipped tweezer that is clean. Grasp the tick as close as one can to the skin surface as possible, and pull upward or away from the skin in a single motion. Don’t twist the tweezers as this can break off the mouth. If you do see a piece of the mouth left behind, try a second time, grab it and pull straight. If unsuccessful at that point leave it alone and let the skin heal. Then clean the bite area and the hands with alcohol and soap and water.
Don’t crush the tick with your fingers, don’t put it back down. Place the tick in alcohol and a bag. Wrap the tick tightly in tape or just flush it down the toilet.”
Common Tick Removal Myth
Candie Anderson: Is using a match to remove a tick a myth?
Dr. Harvey Kaufman: “Yes. Don’t do that. Those types of things will often stimulate the tick to release more saliva, which is not desirable. It’s the saliva that is putting the bacteria back into our bloodstream.”
More Information On Tick Prevention and Lyme Disease
Candie Anderson: Do you have any additional tips or information you’d like to share with us?
Dr. Harvey Kaufman: “When diagnosed early antibiotics are extremely effective and people are generally cured. Even if it progresses where people develop arthritis, typically a large joint (knees or ankles or wrists, it’s still generally very treatable. If one suspects Lyme, seek medical care. Make sure it is the right diagnosis and receive the appropriate antibiotics.
Waiting a long time, waiting months and years is not the right answer. Seek medical care.”
Candie Anderson: Where can we go for more information on everything you mentioned?
Dr. Harvey Kaufman: “We have information about our report at www.QuestLymeReport.com. The CDC also has good information.”