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Lyme disease is an infectious disease caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. People get it by a bite from an infected black-legged or deer tick. The tick becomes infected after feeding on infected deer, birds or mice. Did you know? A tick has to be present on your skin for at least 36 hours to transmit the infection.

Did you know? A tick has to be present on your skin for at least 36 hours to transmit the infection.

The symptoms of Lyme disease can vary in severity, and often affect people differently. Some of the more common symptoms of Lyme disease include:
  • A flat, circular rash that looks like a red oval or bull's-eye anywhere on your body
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Joint pain and swelling
  • Muscle aches
  • Difficulty sleeping and/or concentrating

The best way to protect against Lyme disease is to reduce your exposure to ticks and tick bites. Other ways to protect yourself from Lyme disease include:

  • Wear clothing and gear with products containing 0.5% permethrin. Permethrin is used to treat boots, clothing and camping gear.
  • Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents.
  • Avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.
  • Walk in the center of trails.
  • Check your clothing, gear and pets for ticks after going indoors.
  • Check your body for ticks after being outdoors, paying special attention to:
    • Under your arms
    • In and around your ears
    • Inside your belly button
    • The backs of your knees
    • In and around your hair
    • Between your legs
    • Around your waist

Like most diseases, Lyme disease is best treated in the early stages. That’s why it’s important to contact your doctor immediately if you have any combination of the symptoms and believe you may have been infected.

Treatment for early localized disease is a simple 10- to 14-day course of oral antibiotics to eliminate the infection. For severe forms of Lyme disease that affect the heart or central nervous system, intravenous (IV) antibiotics are used followed by an oral antibiotic. The complete course of this treatment usually takes 14 to 28 days.

For some people, the after-effects of the disease can linger for months and sometimes even years. Chronic Lyme disease causes continuing, low-grade symptom flare-ups, and usually occurs when a patient has been infected for more than a year before seeking treatment.