12 things you didn’t know about Lyme disease

Lyme disease is a tick-borne illness caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. GettyImages

Lyme disease affects approximately 300,000 Americans each year. If left untreated, it can develop into chronic Lyme disease, which results in problems with the brain and nervous system, muscles and joints, heart and circulation, digestion, reproductive system, and skin.

There’s a lot of information out there about Lyme disease, so it’s important to know the facts when it comes to identifying symptoms, prevention, and treatment. Here are 12 things you didn’t know about Lyme disease.

Lyme is the fastest growing vector-borne disease in America.

Lyme disease is on the rise. Shutterstock

Tickborne diseases more than doubled in 13 years. According to a trends report by the Centres for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), of the 642,000 total cases of tick-, flea-, and mosquito-borne illnesses between 2004 and 2016, 77% came from ticks. And Lyme disease accounted for 82% of all tickborne disease reports.

Those with Lyme disease shouldn’t donate blood.

If you currently have Lyme disease, avoid donating blood. Getty Images/Joern Pollex

Although researchers have yet to find a case where a patient contracted Lyme disease from the transfusion of blood, Lyme disease can live in blood that is stored for donation.

The CDC recommends that only individuals who were already treated with an antibiotic be considered as potential blood donors.

There used to be a Lyme disease vaccine, but it got discontinued.

A vaccine no longer exists for Lyme disease. Komsan Loonprom/Shutterstock

A Lyme disease vaccine was discontinued in 2002 due to “insufficient consumer demand,” according to the CDC. Apparently, the protection against Lyme disease it offered weakened with time. It was also not universally covered by health insurance.

You cannot get Lyme disease from eating meat.

Eating meat is safe when it comes to contracting Lyme disease. Ilya S. Savenok/Getty

Although some believe you can get Lyme disease by eating improperly cooked venison meat, according to the CDC, this isn’t true. Hunting these animals, however, might bring you into close contact with ticks.

Many cases of Lyme disease go unreported.

Lyme disease is often misdiagnosed. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

According to a CDC trends report that studied vector-borne illnesses in the United States over a 13-year period, researchers estimate that Lyme disease infects approximately 300,000 Americans each year, although there are likely eight to 10 times more cases than those actually reported.

Kelly Osbourne recently revealed that she went a decade before receiving the diagnosis of Lyme’s disease.

Not every tick transmits Lyme disease.

Many common ticks do not actually spread Lyme disease. Juergen Faelchle/Shutterstock

If you look at your leg and see a tick, don’t freak out. Not every species of tick transmits Lyme disease. According to the CDC, Lone star ticks (Amblyomma americanum), the American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis), the Rocky Mountain wood tick (Dermacentor andersoni), and the brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus) have not been found to transmit Lyme disease.

Ticks have been especially difficult to control in comparison to other vector-borne illnesses

Nymph blacklegged ticks (right) are tiny compared to adults (left) but are the most common vectors for Lyme disease. Getty Images

Mosquitos and other pests are controlled as easily as buying a can of bug spray at your local drug store. Ticks, however, are slightly more difficult to repel, based on recent findings published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases.

There are 899 different species of ticks

The American Dog Tick (Dermacentor variabilis) is not known to carry Lyme disease. Wikimedia Commons

It turns out 899 different species of ticks exist around the world, although only the black-legged tick (deer tick, Ixodes scapularis) and the western black-legged tick (Ixodes pacificus) spreads Lyme disease to Americans,according to the CDC.

If you contract Lyme disease, you could be on antibiotics for a month.

A heavy dose of antibiotics is required to treat Lyme disease. Getty Images/Joe Raedle

According to WebMD, doctors may prescribe antibiotics to Lyme disease patient for two to four weeks.

If not treated, Lyme disease could become chronic.

There is still a lot unknown about Lyme disease and its lingering effects. triocean/Shutterstock

About 10 to 20% of people who are treated with antibiotics will have symptoms that persist after they complete treatment, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. And on top of that, doctors aren’t exactly sure why some people don’t recover.

Lyme disease can result in problems with memory, language, and maths skills.

Lyme disease can have many nonspecific symptoms. Shutterstock/A. and I. Kruk

The symptoms of Lyme disease can be more serious than many are aware, potentially leading to cognitive deficiencies in memory, language, and maths skills, according to a 2015 study.

Read more: How to know if you have Lyme disease, which affects 300,000 Americans yearly

You can have a “Lyme relapse.”

Lyme disease can return even after a course of antibiotics has been taken. Shutterstock

Patients have reported having a “Lyme relapse,” where the bacteria returns after treatment, according to a study published in Journal of Clinical Microbiology.

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