What is the proper treatment for Lyme disease?
Most patients with Lyme disease are treated with antibiotics.
Can I do anything to protect myself from becoming infected?
Yes. If travelling overseas to USA or Europe and you are in the woods or garden in tick-infested areas, avoid contact with the soil, leaves, and vegetation. Wear closed shoes, light-coloured clothing and use insect repellant containing DEET. Check your clothing and exposed skin frequently and remove ticks promptly. Animals such as dogs, cats, horses and cows can also carry the deer tick.
How can I recognise the signs if I don’t show the rash?
The rash appears in only about 50% of those infected. This rash may be the classic ‘bull’s eye’ but may also be blotchy or red and may be confused with poison ivy, spider bites or ringworm. It may appear between a few days and a few weeks after being bitten and can disappear quickly. If possible, take a picture of the rash to show your doctor, since the rash may be gone before you can get an appointment.
Other symptoms of Lyme disease include fatigue, chills and fever, headache, muscle and pain and swollen lymph nodes. Check with your doctor if you have any of these symptoms and cannot explain how you got them.
Which countries are affected by Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is common in the US, particularly the forested areas of New England, and in Scandinavia. Other countries in Western and Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, Japan and China have all reported cases. Each year hundreds of thousands are infected in the US, while in the UK there are usually only a few hundred cases. Infections occur mainly in the northern hemisphere summer months i.e. June and July. Lyme disease has not been found to occur in Australia. In the 1990s, 12,000 ticks were collected from different parts of NSW and were tested for Borrelia bacteria but no evidence of Borrelia infection could be found in any of the ticks collected.
It is possible that a disease which shares some symptoms with Lyme disease is present in Australia. If it exists it may or may not be transmitted by ticks. However, until such a disease is characterised and the causative organism identified it is not possible to develop a diagnostic test. Some non-NATA accredited laboratories in Australia and overseas offer tests that claim to show Lyme disease is relatively common in Australia, but Australian expert microbiologists and pathologists recommend that testing be performed only in NATA-accredited laboratories where the testing has been assessed by strict criteria to assure that false-positive and false-negative results are minimised.