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Lyme Disease

Lyme Disease: Frequently Asked Questions

Thursday, April 19, 2012 - 11:06

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

Here are some frequently asked questions related to lyme disease:

Q: Does Lyme disease occur outside the United States?

A: Yes, Lyme disease occurs worldwide. In Europe, the tick that spreads the disease usually lives on sheep in its adult stage rather than on deer.

Q: How do ticks become infected?

A: Ticks become infected with the Lyme disease spirochete by feeding on the blood of animals that have the disease.

Q: When are people most likely to contract Lyme disease?

A: The nymph-stage ticks that generally bite humans and spread Lyme disease are most active between May and August, but infection is common throughout the summer and fall.

Q: Can pets get Lyme disease?

A: Household pets and domestic animals can get Lyme disease; symptoms include joint swelling and soreness, lameness, loss of appetite, and fever. There are three Lyme disease vaccines available for dogs, which can be given any time after the age of nine weeks. The vaccine is not currently available for cats. Pets can also carry ticks into the house, thereby exposing the owners to risk. Using the effective flea and tick prevention measures available from veterinarians will reduce the likelihood of problems for pet and owner alike.

Q: Is it possible to get Lyme disease in another way than from a tick bite?

A: Lyme disease could theoretically spread by contact with infected blood or urine (for example, through blood transfusions). However, there is no documentation of this actually happening. There is no evidence that Lyme disease is spread through casual contact, sexual relations, directly from deer or other animals, or through air, food or water. One case of Lyme disease from a horsefly or deer fly bite was written up in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1990, but the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) does not believe that the disease is transmitted by flies, fleas, or mosquitoes. It is rare, but possible, for Lyme disease acquired during pregnancy to be transmitted to the fetus.

Q: Can a person contract Lyme disease more than once?

A: It does seem possible for re-infection to occur once a person or animal has seemingly recovered from Lyme disease.

Lyme Disease