Lyme disease is only transferable from Ticks

Avril Lavigne’s interview on Lyme disease really touched us this week.

We thought it was high time to help you all with some facts about Lyme disease and ticks.

There is a higher risk of contracting Lyme disease from a tick bite this summer.  We receive stories from customers from the US & Europe all the time about how there is a distinct lack of information and awareness about Lyme… this story is from Sian James.

Sian was misdiagnosed with M.E. (Myalgic Encephalopathy – quite a common misdiagnosis!) as the symptoms are similar, and wasn’t tested for Lyme disease until some time after she received tick bites.

“After some years of ill health and a variety of approaches, I recently tested for Lyme,” she told us. She knew she had a genetic kidney disorder, but there were other immune problems occurring. “I was positive for borrelia, the Lyme bug, and for babesia microti and duncani, two variants of a malaria-type protozoan infection that lives within red blood cells.”

Sian James - in the mountains
Sian James – in the mountains

She didn’t realise her home in Arizona, USA, had any risk of Lyme disease. She said there is a real lack of information about Lyme disease and most people, like her, don’t know they have been bitten.

“I suspect my infection came about on the land of a house I rented for years in Sedona, Southwest USA,” she said. “A crew of deer wandered through it every day, etc. Deer ticks are endemically infected with Lyme and I spent a lot of time barefoot on that land, ignoring the little marks on my legs that I assumed were from cactus spines.”

“I also did not know that not everyone gets the ‘bull’s eye rash’ after an infected tick bite, or that Lyme often became a chronic condition. I do now. The politics of treating Lyme is hideous, and profoundly in the thrall to the insurance companies.”

She is optimistic despite the bad news that Lyme infections are ‘extremely hard to eradicate’. Her advice for those in USA and the UK: “If you hike, take precautions (use insect repellent spray) and if you get bitten, seek medical attention. Early treatment is the key to preventing later suffering.”

What is a tick?

Ixodes scapularis (deer tick or black legged tick)
Ixodes scapularis (deer tick or black legged tick)

Ticks are oval, flat arachnids – related to spiders, mites and scorpions. They are tiny and therefore not easy to spot – an unfed tick is approximately 2.5mm-3mm but when they fed, they engorge with blood and swell like a balloon to up to 11mm. They range from reddish brown to black.

They are found in woodland, heathland, moorland, forests and parks – anywhere with long grass and shrubbery they climb up in order to brush onto hosts (people and animals). When ticks bite it is usually painless and not noticed – people usually only see the tick on their skin. If undisturbed, a tick can feed up to 5-6 days before letting go and dropping off.

The risk of transmission of Lyme disease increases the longer the tick is attached, but the disease can be transmitted in less than 24 hours.

(Ticks are tiny and ‘cling on’ to you once they bite you. They then suck blood and become swollen (‘engorge’) with blood which they feed off. The bacteria are normally carried in their gut, and only travel up to their mouth and into your skin once they have been fed and are engorged. This normally takes about 24 hours, but can be less if the tick was already partially fed.) Therefore, if you remove a tick soon after being bitten – within 24 hours – you are much less likely to develop Lyme disease, even if it was an infected tick.

Where are ticks?

There are 2-3,000 new cases of Lyme disease in England and Wales each year and over 30,000 cases across the USA. About 20% of cases of Lyme disease reported in England are caught while abroad across Europe.

In England these areas have a high population of ticks:

  • Exmoor
  • the New Forest and other rural areas of Hampshire
  • the South Downs
  • parts of Wiltshire and Berkshire
  • parts of Surrey and West Sussex
  • Thetford Forest in Norfolk
  • the Lake District
  • the North York Moors
  • the Scottish Highlands

But not all ticks carry Lyme disease so infection rates across the country fluctuate year to year.

Lyme disease cases have been reported in nearly every state across the USA but 95% of these cases have come from 14 states (Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin.)

How do you know if you have Lyme disease?

If a tick bites an animal or mixture of animals carrying bacteria that causes Lyme disease – Borrelia burgdorferi – the tick becomes infected and transfers this bacteria through a bite to humans. Unlike mosquito-borne disease, ticks can’t infect person to person.

Stage one Lyme disease:

Look out for a distinctive circular ‘bull’s eye’ rash at the site of the tick bite any time up to a month after being bitten. This rash is called erythema migrans.

While this rash usually fades within a month, this doesn’t mean the infection has cleared from the body. Also 1 in 3 people with Lyme disease don’t develop this rash.

Flu-like symptoms such as fatigue, muscle pain, stiffness and joint pain, headaches and a high temperature or chills can signal Lyme disease.

Stage two Lyme disease:

Weeks or months after the tick bite, the infection can spread. This can cause pain and swelling in the joints – most commonly affecting the knee joints. These episodes can last for three months.

Stage three/chronic Lyme disease:

If left untreated more serious symptoms can develop and persist.

Numbness or pain, paralysis of muscles, memory and concentration problems. Heart burn, dizziness and chest pain. Severe headaches, stiff necks and increased sensitivity to light. Some people develop long-term symptoms similar to fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome. This is known as post-infectious Lyme disease.

If you know you have been bitten by a tick and experience any of these symptoms you should see your GP.

There is no vaccine to prevent Lyme disease! Therefore the only way to prevent Lyme disease is to not get bitten by ticks…

How to avoid ticks – and how to remove ticks

How to reduce the risk of being bitten by ticks:

–       Avoid walking through long grass, or where you know ticks live. Particularly in summer.

–       When in the countryside, stick to footpaths and away from long grass and overgrown vegetation. Ticks crawl up.

–       Use our insect repellent!

–       Wear lighter colours to help you spot ticks on clothes, wear long sleeves and tuck trousers into socks.

–       Check yourself, children and pets for ticks before returning indoors.

–       Shower or bath as soon as possible after returning home from a tick-infested area such as woodland.

–       Remove ticks on the skin carefully with a tick remover.

Carry a tick remover / tick removal kit to quickly and safely remove ticks effectively. The quicker you remove the tick the less risk of Lyme Disease. A tick removal kit: 100% effective insect repellent spray or roll-on, specialist tick remover and antiseptic (included in our tick remover).

Although you can remove ticks with tweezers, unless you know what you’re doing it can be dangerous.

When the tick is not removed properly, the body breaks away while the head is buried in the skin and the tick regurgitates its contents into the person’s body (!!) This can transmit Lyme disease.

Our spray will protect you against ticks!

incognito® insect repellent spray is clinically tested to be 100% effective against ticks in the UK & USA

Other info

The Lyme Disease Foundation in the US has reported steady a increase in reported cases of Lyme Disease in the US in the last few years.

“Lyme Disease Awareness Month educates both young and old about Lyme Disease and how they can take steps to prevent it.”

Back to blog

Leave a comment