With America on lockdown the past two months, many people turned to the woods for safe isolation and social distancing. And now as sections of the country reopen and summer approaches, the outdoors will be filled with hikers, campers, hunters and fishermen. It will also be filled with ticks that may be carrying the bacterial infection that spreads Lyme disease to humans and pets.
Unlike a mosquito bite where people know immediately if they have been bitten, a tick bite may go undetected; and one of the challenges with Lyme disease is that symptoms may not appear for two to six weeks. That makes it critically important to take steps to avoid catching the disease and to know its warning signs so treatment can begin early when it is most effective.
“While not all deer ticks cause Lyme disease, it is still smart to avoid areas where deer ticks live, especially wooded, bushy areas with long grass,” said Sean McCloy, M.D., a family medicine physician with an expertise in Lyme disease at the Integrative Health Center of Maine. “You can decrease your risk of getting Lyme disease with some simple precautions, such as wearing shoes, long pants tucked into your socks, a long-sleeved shirt, a hat and gloves. And after spending time in vulnerable areas you should always check your clothing, yourself, your children and your pets for ticks; and remove any that you find as soon as possible with tweezers. Only a minority of tick bites leads to Lyme disease; but the longer the tick remains attached to your skin, the greater your risk of getting the disease.”
For those who are bitten by an infected tick, early warning signs include fever, headache, fatigue, joint pain, swollen lymph nodes, weakness in the limbs and a characteristic skin rash often in a bull’s-eye pattern. If untreated, new symptoms could include neurological problems and, though less common, heart problems (such as an irregular heartbeat), eye inflammation, liver inflammation and severe fatigue.
“If you think you’ve been bitten and have signs and symptoms of Lyme disease—particularly if you live in an area where Lyme disease is prevalent—it is critical to get tested as treatment is more effective if begun early,” said Robert Dracker, M.D., chairman of the heart, lung and cancer committee for the Medical Society of New York and medical director of Summerwood Pediatrics and Infusacare Medical Services in New York. “Fortunately, new tests are available that are easy to administer and provide results faster than ever.”
Leading the way in Lyme disease testing is the innovative Sofia 2 Lyme FIA test. This in-office test provides a patient as well as his or her physician with indicative results within minutes as opposed to days, which has historically been the norm. Performed in the privacy of a doctor’s office or local clinic, it is also the only test that can get results from a simple finger prick of blood. The test was developed by Quidel, a California-based diagnostic healthcare manufacturer and one of the nation’s leaders in developing rapid diagnostic health solutions.
“Given that the vast majority of patients tested are negative, getting results quickly will mean discernable peace of mind and remove a significant weight off a person’s shoulders,” said Dr. Dracker. “Not having to wait days for test results allows physicians and nurse practitioners to more rapidly treat those patients with positive results while more quickly pursuing other diagnosis and treatment for those who test negative.”
Patients seeking more information are encouraged to contact their private physician to find out more about the availability of this innovative new test in their area.