Most Effective Lyme Disease Prevention Strategies

Brandon May
Published Online: Monday, July 25th, 2016
CDC researchers recently revealed the most effective strategies for preventing tick bites and Lyme disease.
 
Lyme disease is transmitted by the Ixodes scapularis, commonly referred to as the blacklegged tick. This arachnid carries a bacterium that causes Lyme disease in humans. When an individual receives a bite from an infected tick, the bacterium is transmitted to the individual and goes to work initiating the disease process.
 
Although the damaging effects of Lyme disease may not immediately present following a tick bite, that doesn’t necessarily mean the patient is immune. Often, effects occur much later, and left untreated, the disease can cause significant deleterious effects on the neurological, cardiovascular, and muscular systems of the body.
 
Drs. Lars Eisen and Marc Dolan of the CDC performed a comprehensive literature review on the efficacy of numerous Lyme disease prevention strategies. Their findings primarily focused on preventing direct exposure to the primary source of the disease: bites from blacklegged ticks.
 
The 3 most effective prevention tools and strategies outlined in the review were:
·      Protective clothing,
·      Insect repellant, and
·      Landscape management
 
According to Dr. Eisen, the key aim of the review was to provide clinicians, as well as the public, with information they need to prevent the transmission and spread of Lyme disease.
 
“The challenges are great, but we are working hard to define the best way forward to close knowledge gaps and generate the critical data needed to provide evidence that certain single or integrated methods do indeed reduce human bites by blacklegged ticks and Lyme disease,” Dr. Eisen said in a press release.
 
Tick bites often occur when a susceptible individual is out in nature, so wearing protective clothing—such as long-sleeved shirts, pants, and high socks—in high-risk natural areas may be the best choice. Even spraying clothing items and the body with a commercial insect repellent prior to going outside can further reduce the odds of tick exposure.
 
Homeowners should strategically apply insecticides throughout the yard and around the perimeter of the home to help ward off potential Lyme disease carriers. Meanwhile, burning accumulated leaf litter may reduce the presence of ticks by nearly 80%. Additionally, deer control measures may be helpful, as these animals are common tick hosts.
 
Early detection is critical in order to prevent the occurrence and/or progression of these negative health consequences, and it is common for patients to visit retail clinics when they suspect that they’ve been bitten. If a patient comes into a retail clinic complaining of an insect bite, nurse practitioners and physician assistants should be on the lookout for the following initial symptoms:

·      Consistent headaches
·      Fever
·      Joint pain
·      Stiff neck
 
Some patients who develop Lyme disease may recover without medical intervention; however, antibiotics are often prescribed for affected patients. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may also be administered in an effort to mitigate pain during recovery.
 
The findings were published in the Journal of Medical Entomology.

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