Lyme Disease Fact Sheet

Revised July, 2015

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Lyme Disease Fact Sheet (PDF)

What is Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is one of many tickborne diseases in Minnesota and the most common tickborne disease in the United States. The disease can cause a variety of symptoms that affect many different parts of the body. It is called Lyme disease because it was discovered in the Lyme, Connecticut area in 1975.

How do people get Lyme disease?

People can get Lyme disease through the bite of a blacklegged tick (deer tick) that is infected with the bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi. Not all blacklegged ticks carry these bacteria and not all people bitten by a blacklegged tick will get sick. The tick must be attached to a person for at least 24-48 hours before it can spread Lyme disease bacteria.

Blacklegged ticks live on the ground in areas that are wooded or with lots of brush. The ticks search for hosts at ground level and grab onto a person or animal as they walk by. Ticks do not jump, fly, or fall from trees.

In Minnesota, the months of May through July and September through October are the greatest risk for being bitten by a blacklegged tick. Risk peaks in June every year. Blacklegged ticks are small; adults are about the size of a sesame seed and nymphs (young ticks) are about the size of a poppy seed. Due to their small size, a person may not know they have been bitten by a tick.

What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?

Early symptoms of Lyme disease usually appear within 30 days of a bite. Symptoms may include:

  • Rash
    • May look like a bull’s-eye, red ring with a clear center that may grow to several inches in width
    • May not be itchy or painful
    • Not everyone gets or sees the rash and not all rashes look like a bull’s-eye
  • Fever and chills
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Headache
  • Tired and weak

If a person is not treated early, one or more of these symptoms may occur weeks or months later: multiple rashes, paralysis on one side of the face, weakness or numbness in the arms or legs, irregular heartbeat, persistent weakness and tiredness, or swelling in one or more joints (often the knees).

How is Lyme disease diagnosed?

If a person suspects Lyme disease, they should contact a doctor immediately for diagnosis and treatment. The diagnosis of Lyme disease is based on:

  • History of exposure to blacklegged ticks or tick habitat
  • Physical exam (rash and other symptoms)
  • Blood tests may be performed to confirm the diagnosis

How is Lyme disease treated?

Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics. Treatment works best early in the disease. Lyme disease detected later is also treatable with antibiotics but symptoms may take longer to go away, even after the antibiotics have killed the Lyme disease bacteria. In most cases, symptoms go away after treatment.

How can I reduce my risk?

Protect yourself from tick bites:

  • Know where ticks live and when they are active.
  • Use a repellent if you spend time in areas where ticks live.
    • Use DEET-based repellents (up to 30%) on skin or clothing.
    • Pre-treat clothing and gear with permethrin-based repellents to protect against tick bites for at least two weeks without reapplication.

Check for ticks after spending time in areas where ticks live:

  • Inspect your entire body closely for ticks, especially hard-to-see areas such as the groin and armpits.
  • Remove ticks as soon as you find one.
  • Use tweezers and grasp the tick close to its mouth and pull the tick outward slowly and gently. Clean the area with soap and water.

Manage areas where ticks live:

  • Keep lawns and trails mowed short.
  • Remove leaves and brush.
  • Create a landscape barrier of wood chips or rocks between mowed lawns and woods.

Updated Monday, August 03, 2015 at 11:53AM