Be prepared: Know the facts about Lyme disease

  • Published
  • By By Capt. Ashley Chirco
  • 319th Medical Group

Although the summer season is coming to an end, it is important to be vigilant in protecting ourselves against unwanted pests, such as ticks, that may transmit disease. In North Dakota and Minnesota, one of the most serious diseases transmitted by ticks is Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium carried by mammals and transmitted by ticks to humans. Most Lyme disease cases occur during the spring and summer months, when immature ticks tend to be most active. However, adult ticks are most active and spread disease in the fall. Last year North Dakota had 33 cases of Lyme disease, and Minnesota had approximately 1,200 cases. This year, there have been two confirmed cases of Lyme disease in Grand Forks County and two recently diagnosed cases on Grand Forks Air Force Base.

Early symptoms of Lyme disease generally occur three to 14 days after being bitten by an infected tick. Typical symptoms of Lyme disease include a characteristic bull’s-eye-shaped rash that tends to expand with time, fatigue, chills, fever, headache, muscle and joint pain and swollen lymph nodes. If not treated, Lyme disease can progress and cause more serious symptoms, such as arthritis, nerve disorders, meningitis and heart disease.

Currently, there is no vaccine for Lyme disease, so in order to protect yourself and your family, you are encouraged to use insect repellents containing at least 20 percent DEET, wear long sleeves and pants to limit skin exposure, avoid contact with areas of overgrown grass, brush or leaf litter, and thoroughly check for ticks when returning inside from areas with tall grass. Additionally, keeping pets up to date on flea and tick prevention to help prevent them from bringing these pests into your homes.

Ticks tend to gravitate to warm and dark areas of the body, including under the arms, behind the knees and in the groin. Prompt removal of ticks is important to avoid transmission of Lyme disease, as ticks must be attached for at least 24 hours to transmit the bacterium. In order to remove an attached tick, use tweezers to grasp the tick as closely to the skin as possible, being careful not to crush the tick’s body. With steady force, pull the tick upwards and away from the skin. After tick removal, clean the area with soap and water.  

If you suspect that you have been infected with Lyme disease and are experiencing symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches, joint pains or a rash please schedule an appointment with your provider. If you are enrolled with the 319th Medical Group, please contact the call center at 701-747-5601 for an appointment.