- Lyme disease is an infection caused by a kind of bacteria called a spirochete. This bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, is transmitted by the bite of an infected deer tick.
- Deer ticks are most infectious during their nymph stage, during which they are so small (less than 1/16 inch before feeding) as to be barely visible.
- The bacterium that causes Lyme disease transmits and reproduces very slowly, so you are unlikely to get the disease if the tick has been attached to your skin for less than 24 to 48 hours.
- About 70% to 80% of infected individuals will develop a red rash called erythema migrans at the site of the tick bite. Over a period of days to weeks, the rash grows larger and the center may fade, creating a "bull's-eye" or ring appearance.
- Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics. Due to the slow transmission and reproduction rate of the bacterium, a single dose of antibiotics will usually nip the disease in the bud if taken within the first 48 hours after being bitten.
- Despite what Mitt Romney might have had you believe, "chronic Lyme disease" probably isn't a real thing.
You're probably wondering, how does John know so much about Lyme disease? Well, I have a JAMA patient page about the disease here on the desk next to me from which I copied most of what you read above. (The part about Mitt Romney I added on my own.) But that was just for the sake of convenience; I heard most of the above from a infectious disease specialist last night when I attended a Madison Parks program called Walk with a Doc, at which said Doc spoke briefly about Lyme disease before leading a walk from Penn Park (home of Madison's award-winning freeway overpass-style picnic shelter) through Quann and Goodman Parks to Olin Park and back.
That's not a part of town I find myself in all that frequently -- those are south-side parks and I live on the east side -- but I made the trip because last night's Doc was a member of my church. But it was worth going out of the way for, because it was a beautiful night for a walk -- temperature in the low 70s, clear skies, low humidity -- and I got a free Walk with a Doc pedometer out of it. Unfortunately, I forgot to ask the Madison Parks employee who walked with us if her job was anything like Leslie Knope's. Alas.