Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted through tick bites from the tiny black-legged deer tick – which is found in the northeastern and north-central parts of the U.S. and is very common in the Lehigh Valley – and the Western black-legged tick found in the Pacific coastal regions of the country. It is the leading cause of all insect-borne illness in the U.S. and is most common in nine states: Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Wisconsin, according to the Lyme Disease Foundation (LDF).
The condition most often targets the skin, joints, brain and heart, although any part of the body can be affected.
Although Lyme disease is a year-round problem, April through October is considered tick season. Cases of Lyme disease have been reported in nearly all states in the U.S. and in large areas in Europe and Asia.
Ticks prefer to live in wooded areas, low-growing grasslands and yards. Depending on the location, anywhere from less than 1 percent to more than 50 percent of the ticks are infected with spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
“An infected tick needs to be on your body for 24 to 36 hours to transmit the bacteria,” says family medicine doctor Elizabeth Stanton, MD, with Lehigh Valley Health Network. If a deer tick has been on your body for less than 24 hours, remove it and monitor your symptoms. If you’re able, bring the tick to your doctor so it can be tested.
Often, the first symptom is a flat, round, reddish rash at the site of the bite that appears three to 30 days after the tick bite.