“An Apple A Day”

Orcas Family
Health Center

A Washington State and IRS 501 (c) 3 non -profit corporation


Lyme disease. Is that something you get from having too many of those green citrus fruits in your margaritas? Not quite. in 1977 there was an unusual outbreak of arthritis in children in and around Lyme, Connecticut. After a thorough investigation it was found to be due to a bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi transmitted via a tick bite and the disease became known by where it was described. We receive a fair number of questions regarding Lyme disease and thought it wise to devote this column to tick bites and the diseases they transmit. The take away message is THERE IS NO LYME DISEASE IN THE TICKS OF SAN JUAN COUNTY. We have, however, had a few cases of Lyme disease imported from other parts of Washington state In the United States other tick borne diseases include Rocky Mountain spotted fever. enrlichiosiS and tularemia.

To understand Lyme disease we must first discuss the lowly tick, the carrier of the bacteria. Webster defines a tick as “any of a superfamily Of blood sucking arachnids that are larger than the related mites, attach themselves to warm blooded vertebrates to feed, and include important vectors of infectious disease,” There are two common ticks in our area, the larger dog tick and the pinhead size western black legged tick, also known as a deer tick, which does carry Lyme disease in other parts of western Washington. In order to transmit the disease a prolonged attachment of the tick -up to 24

hours- is generally considered necessary, so frequent inspection and removal of ticks after spending time in the woods or brush is one means of prevention. Other preventive measures include wearing long pants tucked into your socks. a long sleeved shirt and using a DEET containing insect repellant. To remove an attached tick. use fine tweezers to grab the tick family by the head or as close to the head as possible and gently pull. A tick will not “Back out” if you apply lighter fluid or other substances or heat it with a match. Gentle tugging is the proper method of lick removal. Ticks are abundant in the woods during the spring and summer months.

Lyme disease usually presents with a characteristic large, greater than 5″, bull’s eye rash called erythema migrans that generally beginning 7-14 days after a tick bite. Other symptoms may include tiredness. lever, muscle stiffness and joint pain. The diagnosis of Lyme disease is made by clinical evaluation of these symptoms and a blood test for antibodies to the Borrelia bacteria. In untreated patients the primary concern is the development of late chronic symptoms including arthritis, inflammation around the heart (myocarditis). and neurological diseases including meningitis. In areas of the country where there is extensive Lyme disease such as the eastern seaboard people with tick bites are often presumptively treated with a 3-4 week course of an antibiotic such as doxycycline or amoxicillin to prevent these late complications.

Next month we will discuss another vector, the mosquito, carrier of another relatively newly described disease, west Nile virus. Also, in the next week or two look for something from us in your mailbox asking for your help, financial and otherwise, as we strive to become your community health center providing health care for all regardless of insurance or ability to pay. Thank you for your support.