Legacy of Lyme - Tick Transmission, Living with Lyme, and Safety Strategies

Catherine Stanley-Davis - Tick Control, LLC Staff

Tick Control, LLC - Tick Spraying - Lyme Disease Prevention in Connecticut
Tick Control, LLC - Tick Spraying - Lyme Disease Prevention

Lyme, Connecticut is a small, sparsely-populated New England town that boasts scenic views of the coast, rolling green hills, and dense forests. Once connected to the industries of lumber and shipbuilding, the quaint town is now most known for a debilitating disease that shook the community to its core. In 1975, 39 children and 12 adults developed concerning symptoms of illness, including fever, headache, fatigue, rashes, and even paralysis. None of these symptoms, however, were initially connected to a singular source of causation. Most notable among this group was the symptom of arthritis, which involves painful swelling of the joints.

Connecticut’s State Department of Health took note of this cluster of such an unusual outbreak among children and began to search for the cause, prompted by two mothers who served as advocates for those plagued by this mysterious illness. Eventually, it was found that all victims had experienced a tick bite while in the town of Lyme. The illness was dubbed Lyme disease after the town of the outbreak, but it was not until 1982 that scientist Willy Burgdorfer connected Lyme to the spirochete bacterium carried by ticks.

Tick Transmission

Connecticut is a state that consistently reports high incidents of tick-borne diseases such as Lyme. The bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi causes Lyme disease, which is carried in black-legged ticks, otherwise known as deer ticks. The towns served by Tick Control LLC, Greenwich, Darien, New Canaan, Westport, and Fairfield, are also considered home by the deer tick. In a recent study of deer ticks in Connecticut, 35.7% of tested ticks were carriers of Lyme disease.

How does the transmission of tick-borne diseases happen? Ticks engage in an activity called questing, where they wait for hosts on the tips of grass or leaves. They will attach to the plant with their lower legs and raise their upper legs, ready to attach to an animal or human as it walks close enough for the ticks to touch them. Next, ticks bite the host, sucking blood over the course of hours or days. If the tick has a bacterium that carries disease such as Lyme, the host can become infested. A diseased tick often has to be attached to its host for 36-48 hours before infection can occur.

Wouldn’t somebody notice a bug on them - especially if it bit them? Maybe not if the bug were a tick. Ticks are truly created to be invasive and go unnoticed. Most of the ticks that transmit Lyme are considered nymphs, which are ticks that are less than 2 mm. These tiny ticks prefer to posit themselves in places that are not obvious to the host, such as the scalp, armpit, or groin. Ticks create a fluid that prevents the host from feeling the bite and insertion of their feeding tube. While it may seem hard to believe that someone would not notice a tick on them for days, the evolutionary methods that ticks use to survive on hosts are designed for them to go undetected.

Living with Lyme

The only constant in living with Lyme disease is the unpredictability of when the effects of the illness will strike. Lyme disease may lie dormant for a period of days to years before an infected individual experiences symptoms. When Lyme symptoms are exhibited, diagnosis can be tricky. If an extended period of time has lapsed between a tick bite and symptoms, a person or medical professional might not make the connection right away. Many symptoms of Lyme are also symptoms of other illnesses, resulting in misdiagnosis and mistreatment.

Symptoms of Lyme disease include muscle soreness, fatigue, sensitivity to light and noise, rash, fever, joint pain, inflammation, and indicators of the common cold and arthritis. Patients with Lyme disease may feel healthy one day and be plagued with the effects of disease the next. Children with Lyme may struggle to complete a typical school day and adults may be inhibited from performing daily work tasks. Lyme is a truly debilitating disease, the effects of which can last a long time without proper treatment.

The good news is that correct diagnosis and treatment can serve to eliminate Lyme disease completely from a patient’s system. If caught early, antibiotics can cure a patient within two to four wee