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Lyme disease Symptoms and Treatment

Lyme disease or Lyme borreliosis is an infectious, non-contagious disease caused by a bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, transmitted by ticks.

The disease is sometimes difficult to diagnose since tick bites are not always visible and the symptoms are similar to those of other diseases such as influenza.

Lyme disease is usually cured effectively with antibiotics. If left untreated, the disease can affect the joints and the nervous system.

Arthritis of the city of Lyme

Lyme disease was described for the first time in 1975, although it had already been observed for many years in Europe. She was named after many cases of arthritis (inflammation of the joints) that had been seen in children and adults in the city of Lyme, Connecticut, USA. It was not until 1982 that an American entomologist concluded that ticks were responsible for the infection. He made the connection between the presence of spirochete-type bacteria in the digestive tract of ticks and their presence in the joint fluid of patients.

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Symptoms of Lyme disease

A rash of the skin, a small red bump at the site of the bite of the tick. In a few days, this redness spreads forming a red circular plate lighter in the center, hot, several centimeters wide (called erythema migrans). This redness usually appears 7 to 14 days after the tick bite. Some people develop multiple rashes of this type, indicating that the bacteria are multiplying in the bloodstream. Some people suffer from no redness (20% of cases).

  • Fever.
  • Chills.
  • A great fatigue.
  • Headaches.
  • Muscular pain.

When not treated quickly, several weeks or months after infection, the disease can cause:

  • Arthritis, joint pain or joint inflammation, especially in the knees. Arthritic symptoms can even become chronic and last for many years when the disease is not treated.
  • Neurological problems, such as meningitis, temporary paralysis on one side of the face (Bell Paralysis), numbness or weakness of the limbs or muscles.

More rarely:

  • Heart problems such as irregular heartbeats (usually only a few days or weeks).
  • An inflammation of the eyes.
  • Hepatitis.
  • Extreme tiredness and general weakness.

Transmission of Lyme disease

Lyme disease is caused by an infection with the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. In Europe, other bacterial strains (B. garinii, B. afzelii, B. spielmanii, and B. valaisiana) may be responsible for Lyme disease with slightly different symptoms.

This bacterium is transmitted to humans through an infected tick bite. Ticks (of the genus Ixodes) populate wooded areas and become infected when they feed on the blood of small rodents (mice, squirrels), birds and other mammals (deer, horses, dogs,) that can be carriers of the bacteria. Most of these animals do not develop the disease.

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The infected tick transmits the bacteria to humans during an injection. The bacteria is distributed in the skin and then in the blood and tissues. The man contracts mainly the disease of the spring in the autumn, during walks in the forest, when the ticks are numerous. Tick ​​bites are usually painless and most people are unaware that they have been bitten.

In Canada, two types of ticks are responsible for the transmission of Lyme disease: the blacklegged tick (Ixodes pacificus) in British Columbia and the blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis) in the rest of the country. Note that ticks in a region affected by the bacteria are usually infected in a proportion of 5 to 35%. In France, the mainly responsible tick is Ixodes Ricinus.

Lyme disease is not transmitted from one person to another. Pets can carry infected ticks into homes or gardens.


Lyme disease is present on all continents, but it is more prevalent in the temperate and cold regions of the Northern Hemisphere (in Europe, Asia and North America), especially in woodlands.

In Canada, infected tick populations are established in the southern regions of Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec, and in parts of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and southern British Columbia. In France the most affected areas are the East and the Center of the country.

In France, the incidence of Lyme disease varies by region and there are approximately 12,000 to 15,000 new cases per year (Data from the Institut Pasteur).

Lyme disease growing in Canada

The tick Ixodes scapularis (also known as the deer tick) that causes Lyme disease is reported to be expanding in eastern and central Canada. This is attributed to warming temperatures and the spread of ticks in wildlife.

Since 2009, Lyme disease has been a notifiable disease in Canada. It is important for doctors and the public to recognize the tick that is responsible for the infection, because if it is removed from the skin within the first 24 to 48 hours, it is possible to prevent the transmission of the disease.

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Diagnosis of Lyme disease

Lyme disease usually has characteristic redness on the skin. If they are not present, the other symptoms can be confused with many other diseases, for example influenza. Blood tests can be used to detect the presence of antibodies developed against the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. These tests (ELISA and Western blot) are usually more effective a few weeks after infection.

Prevention of Lyme disease

  • Work or frequent grassy or wooded areas where infected ticks are abundant.
  • Do not protect the skin of people who spend time outdoors in areas affected by infected ticks.
  • Do not extract ticks that attach to the skin quickly and appropriately.
  • Own a pet (cat, dog, horse) that frequents the forested areas affected by the disease.
Why prevent?
Simple precautionary measures can reduce tick bites and thus prevent infection by the bacteria that causes the disease.

In the early stages, Lyme disease is usually treated easily with antibiotics. However, if delayed, the disease can lead to serious complications that are more difficult to treat.

Basic preventive measures
In areas infested with ticks:

  • Wear appropriate clothing covering the arms, legs and neck and use a DEET insect repellent.
  • Thoroughly inspect the skin for ticks after a walk in the forest. Within 24 to 48 hours, extract the ticks (taking care to remove the head) that attach to the skin using forceps and disinfect the affected area.
  • Domestic animals (eg cats, dogs, horses) can be treated with anti-tick powders as a preventive measure.

Medical treatments for Lyme disease

The earlier the treatments are administered during the evolution of the disease, the better the results will be.

  • Oral antibiotics. Most cases of Lyme disease can be cured with a treatment lasting 2 to 3 weeks based on Doxycycline (Vibramycin in Canada, Vibramycin N in France), Amoxicilline (Amoxil, Trimox  in Canada, Clamoxyl in France) or Cefuroxime (Ceftin) in Canada.
  • Intravenous antibiotics . Patients diagnosed at a later stage may experience recurrent or persistent symptoms requiring longer-term antibiotic or intravenous therapy, such as penicillin or ceftriaxone (Rocephin). These can, however, cause some side effects, such as digestive problems or sensitivity to the sun.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs (eg aspirin, Advil and Motrin) to relieve arthritis pain.

Avoid Bismacine . A product called Bismacine (or Chromacine), is sold in the United States as an intravenous treatment for Lyme disease. This product is strongly discouraged by Health Canada and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Bismacine contains high doses of bismuth, a metal that, although used in some oral medications, is not approved for use in injectable form. This product can cause serious health problems.

Sulfoxime and Dioxychlor, sold as antimicrobial agents are also discouraged.

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