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Lyme Disease

Related Pages: Office of the City Manager » Public Health

The following FAQs are provided by the Public Health Division. For a more detailed and complete listing, please read the Massachusetts Department of Public Health's Lyme Disease Fact Sheet (38KB).

What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is a bacterial disease caused by Borrelia burgdorferi and is the most commonly reported tick-borne disease in Massachusetts. Both animals and people can be infected with the disease.

What are the symptoms?

Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and a characteristic skin rash. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart and the nervous system.

Some people have Lyme Disease and do not have any early symptoms. Within 1 to 2 weeks of being infected, people may have a "bulls-eye" rash with fever, headache and muscle or joint pain. Other people have a fever and other "flu-like" symptoms without a rash.

After several days or weeks, the bacteria may spread throughout the body of an infected person. These people can get symptoms such as rashes in other parts of the body, pain found in joints and signs of inflammation of the heart or nerves. If the disease is not treated, a few patients can get additional symptoms such as swelling and pain in major joints or mental changes, months after getting infected.

How is it spread?

Lyme Disease is spread by the bite of an infected Deer Tick. The tick usually must be attached to a person for at least 24 hours before it can spread the disease. Lyme Disease can occur during any time of the year. Young ticks are most active during the warm weather months between May and July. Adult ticks are most active during the fall and spring, but may also be out searching for a host any time that winter temperatures are above freezing.

How can you protect yourself?
  • Whenever possible, you should avoid entering areas that are likely to be infested with ticks, particularly in the spring and summer when ticks feed.
  • If you are in an area with ticks, you should wear light-colored clothing so that ticks can be spotted more easily and removed before becoming attached.
  • If you are in an area with ticks, wear long-sleeved shirts and tick your pants into your socks. You may also want to wear high rubber boots (since ticks are usually located close to the ground).
  • Application of insect repellents containing DEET to clothes and exposed skin, and permethrin (which kills ticks on contact) to clothes should also help reduce the risk of tick attachment. DEET can be used safely on children and adults, but should be applied according to Environmental Protection Agency guidelines to reduce the possibility of toxicity.
  • Since transmission of B. burgdorferi from an infected tick is unlikely to occur before 36 hours of tick attachment, check for ticks daily and remove them promptly. Embedded ticks should be removed by using fine-tipped tweezers. Cleanse the area with an antiseptic following removal.
  • You can reduce the number of ticks around your home by removing leaf litter and brush- and wood-piles around your house and edge of your yard. By clearing trees and brush in your yard, you can reduce the likelihood that deer, rodents and ticks will live there.
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