Dear Barb – Lyme Disease Fears

Readers, this is a follow up to last week’s question from Jeremy.

Dear Barb,

my girlfriend and I are avid campers and have been camping for years. However, in the past few years we have been hearing a lot about Lyme disease and West Nile Virus. What precautions can we take to prevent exposure? If we are exposed, how serious are these conditions? I realize you are not a doctor, but perhaps you can suggest general things we can do to protect ourselves. Thanks, I’ll be watching your column for a reply.

Jeremy in Sudbury

Hi Jeremy, as promised last week, here is some information on Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium named Borrelia burgdorfer, which is found in deer ticks. It was discovered in the 1970s after a group of children, living near an area of Lyme, Connecticut, all developed arthritis.

Lyme disease is spread by the bite of an infected deer tick. After being bitten by an infected tick, the individual develops a distinctive rash that resembles a bull’s eye. The rash is often confused with poison ivy or spider bites and because of its appearance is often misdiagnosed as ringworm. Along with the bull’s eye rash, the individual may experience a sore throat, headache, muscle aches, joint pain and fever. These symptoms resemble those of West Nile Virus, although symptoms associated with the virus do not include the characteristic bull’s eye rash of Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is more prevalent in certain parts of the country. Individuals living in these areas are at higher risk. As I suggested last week, the web site of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is worth checking out ( You can also phone the CDC’s public hotline at 1-888-246-2675.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to lessen your risk of exposure to Lyme disease. Wear long sleeved clothing, particularly if you live near a woodland or bush area. Tuck your pants into your socks or boots. If you have spent a lot of time in a wooded area make sure you investigate your body for ticks and shower or bathe thoroughly. Check for anything unusual on your body, especially a rash with concentric rings. If you find anything suspicious, go to your doctor immediately.

Unlike West Nile Virus, there is an antibiotic treatment available to treat those individuals exposed to Lyme disease. When treatment is received in the early stages the chances of complete recovery are improved. Without treatment, individuals may develop reoccurring episodes of arthritis, even years after the initial exposure.

Again Jeremy, thank you for bringing to the forefront a very important and timely issue.

E-mail your questions to Some submissions may be edited for length or to protect confidentiality: your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. The author is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.