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Lyme disease

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The technical term for lyme disease is Borrelia burgdorferi and was discovered in the early 1970's. The way of getting this terrible disease is by way of ticks. There is not just one type of tick that may carry the disease but several types of ticks. There has been no research that shows it is genetic or can be contracted from another human. There are different symptoms, but the main symptom is by a large rash where the tick bite occurred. There are different ways of preventing a tick bite. If a pregnant woman is bitten and treated, the baby may not be harmed. But, if the mother is not treated in time, woman may have a still birth. The severity varies from patient to patient. The main way of treatment is antibiotics. Several antibiotics can be used to treat it. Only certain ones can be used on pregnant women due to the fact that it might bring harm to the unborn baby.

History

In the early 1970's cases of rheumatoid arthritis occurred among children in Lyme, Connecticut and two other towns near by. Researchers were puzzled so they looked at several possibilities for the causes of the cases. Seeing that the kids lived near and played in wooded areas, they looked at the possibility that the cause could be deer ticks. The symptoms of the children usually started during summer, which is the main season for ticks. Some children said that they had been bitten by a tick and acquired a rash in the same place that the tick bite was. This all happened right before they showed signs of arthritis. In the mid 1970's researches started to refer to the symptoms as that of Lyme disease to help doctors diagnose patients. In 1981, researchers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton, Montana, discovered the cause of Lyme disease and found the correlation between deer tick and the disease. It was found that European researchers had described a skin like that of Lyme disease in early 1900's medical literature [1].

Transmission

Deer Tick

It is spread by the bite of infected ticks such as the Ixodes scapularis, also known as the blacklegged tick or deer tick, and the Ixodes pacificus, also known as the western blacklegged tick. The deer tick spreads the disease in northeastern, mid-Atlantic, and north-central United States. Where as the western blacklegged tick spreads the disease on the Pacific coast. The ticks can attach themselves to any part of the body. They usually go to hard to see areas such as the groin, armpits, and scalp. Usually, the tick is attached to the person for 36 to 48 hours or more in order for Lyme disease bacterium to be transmitted. Most people are infected by bites of a nymph. A nymph is a immature tick and are less than 2mm in size, and are incredibly hard to see. Adult ticks are capable of transmitting the disease but it is highly unlikely due to the fact that they are much larger than nymphs and are easier to see, therefore that will be taken off the body before they have time to transmit the bacteria. Adults are active during the cooler months, whereas the nymphs are active during the spring and summer [2].

There has been no discovery of Lyme disease being transmitted by person to person. If one is pregnant and obtains Lyme disease, they are likely to have a miscarriage. But there is a possibility that if the mother gets the appropriate antibiotics in time, there will be no harm to the baby. There has been no reports of Lyme disease being transmitted via breast milk. People being treated for Lyme disease with an antibiotic should not donate blood because it has been found that the bacteria can be live in blood that is being stored for donation. However people that are done with the antibiotic treatment have the capability of being a blood donor. The Amblyomma americanum (lone star), the Dermacentor variabilis (American dog tick), the dermacentor andersoni (Rocky Mountain wood tick), and the rhipicephalus sanguineus (brown dog tick) are ticks that are not known to be carriers of Lyme disease [2].

Symptoms

Rash from Deer Tick Bite
Bull's Eye Rash

The severity of the symptoms varies from patient to patient. When one has lyme disease, the symptoms consist of; stiff neck, chills, fever, swollen lymph nodes, headaches, fatigue, muscle aches, joint pain, erythma migrans, neurological symptoms, heart problems, and eye inflammation. In a more prolonged case, one may have nerve problems and arthritis, that usually happens mostly in the knees. It is most common for it all to start when someone gets a tick bite and then gets a rash in and around the area that the bite occurred. [3].

Erythema migrans are rashes. They occur at the beginning of about 70%-80% of cases. It starts as a small red spot where the bite occurred and then expands over a time of days or even weeks. The size of the rash can range from the size of a dime to the whole back [3].

Arthritus accurs in about 60% of all cases that have not been treated. The arthritis can change from one joint to the next. This is not limited to one joint at a time. It mostly occurs in the knees and is almost never seen in the knuckle joints [3].

When it comes to neurological symptoms, when people have these symptoms alone, it does not mean that they have Lyme disease. The symptoms are; stiff neck, severe headaches, temporary paralysis of facial muscles, numbness, pain or weakness in the limbs, and poor coordination. Symptoms that are not a prominent or easy to notice are; memory loss, lack of concentration, and a change in mood or sleeping. These symptoms may not happen until several weeks or even years after the non-treated infection occurs. People that have these neurological symptoms usually return to total function [3].

Heart problem symptoms include; irregular, slow heartbeat, which can be signaled by dizziness or shortness of breath. But, less than one out of every 10 patients develop the heart problems [3].

Treatment

Antibiotics is the main way of curing Lyme disease. Individuals that are give the proper antibiotics in the early stages of the disease usually recover quickly and fully [2]. The medication can help speed up the healing of erythema migrans rash and keep symptoms, like arthritis and nervous system problems, from developing [4]. The treatment for pregnant women are the close to that of one who is not pregnant. The only thing is, is that some antibiotics cannot be used because it might do damage to the fetus [4].

The antibiotics usually used for treatment are; doxycycline, amoxicillin, or cefuroxime axetil. People with cardiac or neurological issues might need to have intravenous treatment with drugs such as ceftriaxone or penicillin [2].

Some patients may get what is called Post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome or PTLDS, but this is only 10%-20% of patients. These patients are usually individuals that were treated later on [2]. Patients who are fully recovered may experience muscle or joint aches and nervous system symptoms. So scientists are trying to figure out how long one should take antibiotics for the various symptoms that may follow about with yme disease. The sooner the treatment the better. People who have had Lyme disease can be infected again if bitten by a tick that is infected [4].

Prevention

The best form of prevention is to avoid any kind of contact with ticks. Mostly during the summer months because this is when infections are most common. Some other things that one can do is to wear long pants and shirts with long sleeves. The shirt should be tucked into pants and pant legs into socks or shoes. When out of an extended amount of time, one should tape where the clothing meets so the ticks do not crawl into the clothing. If one wears light clothing, it is easier to spot ticks. Spray can be applied to the clothes. [4]. Use DEET spray that has permethrin in it [5]. But make sure that the permethrin is not applied directly to the skin. Avoid wooded areas and grass lands[4].

If one is bitten by a tick they should immediately use fine point tweezers or a special tick removal tool. If an individual does not have any of these tools, they should protect their fingers with a tissue rather than just grabbing the tick. Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. Remove the tick straight and steady, while trying to avoid squeezing the tick, crushing it, or letting any blood remain on skin. When the tick is removed put it in a small vial with either grass or a moist tissue. Label the vial with one's name and date, site of bite, and how long the tick has been there. Then take it to the health department or a vetrenarian so that the tick can be identified and tested for lyme disease [5].

References

  1. Author Unknown. A History of Lyme Disease, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Web. Written 9 October 2012.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Author Unknown. Lyme disease transmission Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Web. Updated 15 November 2011.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Author Unknown. Arthritis and Lyme Disease WebMD. Web. Accessed 1 November 2012.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Author Unknown. Lyme Disease National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Web. Last Updated 9 October 2012
  5. 5.0 5.1 Author Unknown.Personal Prevention Lyme Disease.org. Web. Accessed 15 November 2012.