Lyme disease: What is it and how to avoid it

Lyme disease is a debilitating disease that is spread through the bite of the blacklegged tick, also known as the deer tick, and the western blacklegged tick. The tick catches the bacteria from mice and transmits it to humans.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates as many as 300,000 infections occur every year in the spring and summer. People living in the Northeast, the mid-Atlantic states and the upper Midwest are at the greatest risk for catching Lyme disease, but it’s also been found along the West Coast.

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The illness can cause flu-like symptoms, and if left untreated, can cause severe long-term medical problems, the CDC said, but, if caught early, it’s easily treatable with antibiotics.

There’s a greater risk for catching Lyme disease when camping, hiking, working or playing in wooded and grassy areas.

But there are some easy ways of reducing tick bites. Be aware of your environment during outdoor activities and avoid walking through tall bushes and overgrown vegetation. Use an insect repellent on skin or clothing containing 20 percent or more of DEET. Perform daily tick checks if you’re vacationing or live in a high-risk area. Check your pets for ticks.

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If you find a tick on your body, remove it quickly with a pair of tweezers. If the tick has been on you for less than 24 hours, your chances of contracting Lyme disease are small, but watch for any signs of the illness, like rash or fever.

If you experience any symptoms of the disease, see your doctor immediately.