Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses are skyrocketing -- here's how to know if you have Lyme disease

Getty ImagesDeer ticks like the one on the right cause an acute inflammatory disease characterised by skin changes, joint inflammation, and flu-like symptoms called Lyme disease.
  • Lyme disease is a nasty bacterial infection spread by black-legged ticks, also known as deer ticks. Untreated, it can cause severe neurological damage and joint problems.
  • Rates of diseases spread by ticks are rising rapidly in the US.
  • More than 80% of reported tick-disease cases are infections with Lyme disease.
  • There are probably 300,000 Lyme disease cases every year, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention – but most don’t get reported.

Diseases spread by bites from ticks, mosquitoes, and fleas are on the rise: cases tripled between 2004 and 2016, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Officials believe Lyme disease and other tick-borne infections are becoming more common because the ticks that carry them are spreading to new areas due to warmer weather, which also makes tick season last longer each year, according to the CDC.

There were more than 640,000 cases of these types of diseases reported to the CDC fro 2004 to 2016, a number that officials describe as a serious underestimate.

The majority of those infections were caused by ticks. And of tick-borne disease cases, Lyme disease made up 82% of reported infections.

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that’s spread primarily though the bite of an infected black-legged tick, also known as a deer tick. These tiny arthropods, which can carry the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, typically live in wooded and grassy areas.

Lyle Petersen, the CDC’s director of the division of vector-borne diseases, said the centres estimate there are 300,000 Lyme disease infections in the US each year – eight to 10 times what’s reported.

Common symptoms of Lyme disease include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic bulls-eye skin rash. If left untreated, the infection can spread to the joints, heart, and nervous system, causing more serious problems.

Luckily, most cases can be treated successfully with antibiotics. Here’s what to look out for.

Symptoms-of-lyme-diseaseSamantha Lee/Business Insider

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