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Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is often transmitted through the bite of an infected blacklegged tick, also known as a deer tick.

While Lyme disease is arguably the most commonly occurring and widely-recognized TBD, it is by no means the only one. Different types of ticks can harbor a variety of microorganisms that can be harmful to humans, including Babesia, Anaplasma, Ehrlichia, Powassan Virus, Rocky Mountain Spotted fever, other Borrelia species, and possibly Bartonella – to name just a few.

Symptoms include fever, fatigue, headache, muscle aches, joint pain, a bull’s eye rash may appear, and other symptoms that can be mistaken for viral infections, such as influenza or infectious mononucleosis. Joint pain can be mistaken for other types of arthritis, such as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA), and neurologic signs of Lyme disease can mimic those caused by other conditions, such as multiple sclerosis (MS) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

When detected early, Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics. Left untreated, the disease can spread to the joints, heart and nervous system.
Early diagnosis is important in preventing late-stage complications. Classic signs of untreated cases can include migratory pain or arthritis, impaired motor and sensory skills and an enlarged heart.

The rapid expansion of TBDs in the U.S. and Pennsylvania is further complicated by a lack of consensus among researchers and healthcare practitioners (HCPs) in many critical areas. The medical community varies in its approach to treating patients with Lyme disease, for example, the adherence to a specific timeframe for antibiotic treatment. Others assess patient response to determine treatment.

Pennsylvania has led the nation in confirmed cases of Lyme disease for three straight years and for the first time deer ticks have been found in each of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. The 2014 Lyme disease report released in June by the Department of Health showed there were 7,400 cases of Lyme disease in the commonwealth, compared with 5,900 in 2013, a 25 percent increase over the prior year.

In an effort to address this issue, Department of Health recently launched “Don’t Let a Tick Make You Sick,” a campaign aimed at raising Lyme-disease awareness.

The first line of defense against Lyme is to take precautions in the outdoors by using insect repellent with DEET, wearing long sleeve shirts and long pants, checking for - and promptly and properly removing – any ticks, and showering shortly after exposure.

If bitten, an individual should monitor the area for the next month. If symptoms develop, consult a physician. And as with any concern, always fully engage with your health care provider to discuss your options and make the best decision for you.