Lyme disease is an infection caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, a type of bacterium called a spirochete (pronounced spy-ro-keet) that is carried by deer ticks. An infected tick can transmit the spirochete to the humans and animals it bites. Untreated, the bacterium travels through the bloodstream, establishes itself in various body tissues, and can cause a number of symptoms, some of which are severe.
If treated with appropriate antibiotics in the early stages of the disease, you are likely to recover completely. In later stages, response to treatment may be slower, but the majority of people with Lyme disease recover completely with appropriate treatment.
The New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) and local health departments continue to investigate the spread of Lyme disease throughout New York State. Since Lyme disease first became reportable in 1986, over 95,000 cases have now been confirmed in New York State.
You are more likely to get Lyme disease if you live or spend time in grassy and heavily wooded areas where ticks carrying the disease thrive. It's important to take common-sense precautions in areas where Lyme disease is prevalent.
Protecting Against Ticks & Preventing Lyme Disease
Your best protection is to avoid contact with soil, leaf litter and vegetation. However, if you garden, hike, camp, hunt, work, or otherwise spend time in the outdoors, you can still protect yourself:
- Wear light-colored clothing with a tight weave to spot ticks easily.
- Wear enclosed shoes, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Tuck pant legs into socks or boots and shirt into pants.
- Check clothes and any exposed skin frequently for ticks while outdoors.
- Consider using insect repellent.
- Stay on cleared, well-traveled trails. Avoid contacting vegetation.
- Avoid sitting directly on the ground or on stone walls.
- Keep long hair tied back, especially when gardening.
- Do a final, full-body tick check at the end of the day (also check children and pets), and remove ticks promptly.