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Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is a potentially serious bacterial infection transmitted through the bite of certain species of ticks. Cases have been reported in the state of Kentucky.

What causes Lyme Disease?

Borrelia burgdorferi, a spirochete bacterium.

How is Lyme Disease spread?

Lyme disease bacteria are spread through the bite of an infected deer tick. The tick must be attached and feeding for at least 24 hours before transmission can occur. Also, not all deer ticks carry the bacteria, so only a small percentage of tick bites result in Lyme disease

The deer tick is dark brown in color with a brick red area on the back, and it is the size of a sesame seed or smaller (The common dog tick or wood tick is brown with white marks near the head, and two to four times as big as the deer tick.)

What are the symptoms of Lyme Disease?

Early: An expanding rash which looks like a bullseye, with a red outer rim and clearer center, called erythema migrans. This rash first occurs at the site of the bite, and may occur elsewhere on the body. The rash may not be noticed because of the location of the tick bite. A person with early Lyme disease may also have flu-like symptoms such as fever, tiredness, headache, stiff neck or muscle aches

Late: Weeks or months after infection, the joints, nervous system and heart may be affected. Arthritis, facial palsy and meningitis are late symptoms

How long is it contagious?

Not contagious except through blood transfusions

How can I prevent infection?

  1. Avoid tick-infested areas, especially from May to October. Stay on paved or well-mowed paths and avoid contact with tall grass and shrubbery.
  2. Wear protective clothing when in the woods or tall grassy areas. Tuck pants into high socks, wear a long sleeved shirt tucked into pants and wear light colored clothing so ticks are easier to see.
  3. Use repellents containing permethrin on clothing. Repellents containing DEET can be used on clothing and uncovered skin. These repellents can be toxic, especially for children, so contact your health care provider, pharmacist or the Health Department for information on safe and proper use.
  4. Check for ticks on clothing and entire body while outdoors and when returning indoors. Check pets for ticks before letting them indoors.
  5. Remove ticks promptly. Ticks attached for less than 24 hours are not likely to transmit bacteria. Grasp the tick at the mouthparts with a tweezers or tissue and pull gently but steadily straight back. Do not squeeze the tick’s body; this may cause the tick to inject bacteria into you.


For more information, please call the Northern Kentucky Health Department at 859.363.2070.

Sources: Northern Kentucky Health Department, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Revised November 2014