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May 2017 is officially “Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease Awareness Month” in SLO County, but what does that mean? It means that the County Board of Supervisors are encouraging citizens and medical providers to take all tick-borne diseases seriously.

Lyme disease is a complex, multi-system illness which, if caught early, can be easily treated with antibiotics, but if left untreated can invade the nervous system, heart and multiple organs of the body causing years of pain, suffering, severe disability often misdiagnosed as Fibromyalgia, Lupus, MS or ADHD, and in rare cases Lyme disease may cause death. 

Lyme disease is the fastest growing vector-borne disease in the United States. Vector-borne diseases are illnesses that are transmitted by infected insects, such as ticks. In California, western black-legged ticks transmit the bacterium that causes Lyme disease in humans by attaching to and feeding on a person. An infected tick must be attached and feeding for at least a day (24 hours) before it can transmit the bacterium.

The risk of contracting Lyme disease can be year-round and the ticks are often very small (sometimes the size of a poppy seed). Tick bites are nearly painless and many patients with Lyme disease are unable to recall a tick bite. Fewer than 60 percent report the bulls-eye rash commonly associated with the disease. 

Testing for Lyme disease in humans may be negative if done too early, which means that proper diagnosis may be significantly delayed in some patients. Each year approximately 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported in the U.S., with studies suggesting that the actual number of people infected is 10 times higher, or around 300,000 people annually. 

Because children are at the highest risk for contracting Lyme disease, it is the responsibility of every community to educate the public about the signs, symptoms, of tick-borne diseases treatment, and that prevention, education and early treatment are key, according to a recent resolution passed by the Board of Supervisors.

Removing and Testing Ticks for Lyme Disease

If a tick has attached to your body or to someone you know, you can get that tick tested for Lyme disease for just $15. Here are the steps to take:
  1. If possible have someone else remove the tick from you.
  2. Use tweezers or forceps, not your fingers.
  3. If you must touch the tick, use a tissue to protect your hand.
  4. Grasp the tick’s mouth parts as close to the skin as possible
  5. Gently pull the tick straight out, steadily and firmly.
  6. Do not twist or jerk the tick If the mouth parts of the tick break off and remain in the skin, consult a Physician.
  7. Place the whole tick in a small sealed zip lock bag or a clean plastic jar with a lid.
  8. Add a piece of paper towel that is moistened with water to the container if you are not able to bring the tick in within 48 hrs.
  9. The County can test the tick for Lyme disease. Bring the tick specimen to the County Public Health Laboratory, 2191 Johnson Ave, San Luis Obispo, CA with a Check made out to Santa Clara Public Health for $15.00.

For more information, read this pamphlet.

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