“It felt like having all your life sucked out of you,” she said in an AFP report. This April, rock star Avril Lavinge, popularly known for her songs ‘Skaterboy’ and ‘Complicated’, revealed that she was bedridden for five months all because of a tick that got her down with ‘Lyme disease’. The thirty year old Canadian star kept her fans updated via social media as she battled the the tick-borne disease caused by the bacterium ‘Borrelia burgdorferi’.
The common sign of infection is an expanding area of redness, known as erythema migrans, that begins at the site of a tick bite about a week after it has occurred. The rash is typically neither itchy nor painful. About 25% of people do not develop a rash. Other early symptoms may include fever, headache, and feeling tired.
“Lyme disease is now the most common vector-borne infection in the United States and Europe. About 300,000 cases are reported annually in the United States. However, it can be found in every part of the world except Antarctica. It has no borders and incidence has been increasing worldwide,” she warned.
“It’s important to note that different ticks produce different diseases and therefore not all ticks will cause Lyme disease,” she said. Dr Davis explained that deer ticks are commonly associated with the disease and animals carrying the tick include the white-footed field mice, deer, raccoons, opossums, skunks, weasels, foxes, shrews, moles, chipmunks, squirrels, and horses.
She said the bacteria enters the human body through the skin as a result of a tick bite and later on infects other parts of the body including the brain, nerves, heart and joints, which causes the disease to manifest itself in a variety of ways.
Dr Davis report that because of the small size of the tick, most patients do not remember the preceding tick bite and after about three to 32 days of receiving the bite the skin lesion may be noted.
“A patient may notice fever, chills, or stiffness to the neck. Joint pains generalised weakness, profound malaise and fatigue may also be noted. In children the optic nerve (related to the eye) may be affected and may lead to blindness.”
Dr Davis said that among other sign and symptoms, heart patients may report chest pain and other symptoms in keeping with a failing heart; for example, leg swelling and shortness of breath. “The pain in the joints is described as migratory during this time (it moves) lasting for hours or days and affects one or two locations at a time,” she said.
She explained that months after the attack patients develop frank arthritis — usually multiple large joints, and despite adequate treatment with antibiotics, 10 per cent of patients may develop chronic pain in their joints, severe headache, neurocognitive symptoms including difficulty in concentration, paresthesias (sensation of burning, numbness, tingling, itching or prickling) and fatigue.
Dr Davis said to diagnose this disease an adequate history may be necessary, including recent travel with documentation of contact with the tick.
“We then proceed to identify the bacteria with specific lab investigation. We can also identify the response to the infection (antibody identification). The limitation with the antibody test at times is that they don’t adequately differentiate an active from an inactive infection,” she said.
“Most people will recover with minimal or no residual deficits. As with most things, prevention is better than cure and avoiding tick-infested areas and the use of tick repellant is recommended. No vaccine is currently available,” she said.