Wednesday, September 3, 2014
Injury Prevention and Safety
I had Lyme Disease when I was a child a year before it was discovered. I went untreated for over 2 months - the hole in my head from the bite reached the size of a raquetball. I had the bulls eye rash. I was eventually treated with the anitbiotic for Rocky Mountain spotted fever and eventually recovered. Today I was running my fingers through my hair and found a bump - I scratched it off and found a tick! A very bloated one. I am allergic to tetanus so I cannot get a tetanus shot - I am scared I am going to get very sick again from the tick like I was when I was a child. I have joint and back pain/knee problems that developed a few years after the tick problem. DO you think I have an immunity to the disease now?
The CDC web site on Lyme disease clearly states that having Lyme Disease does not offer protection against a later re-infection. So the answer is unfortunately, no, you are not immune to another Lyme Disease infection and yes, persons have been known to have Lyme Disease after a first infection.
A vaccine against Lyme Disease was developed and tested in the late 1990s, but it was contraindicated for persons like yourself who continue to have arthritis symptoms from their original infection. The vaccine itself caused arthritic symptoms similar to those of the infection itself, and it was feared that the vaccine would make those symptoms worse. In 2002, the manufacturer of the vaccine withdrew it from the market since it was not clear that the vaccine afforded better protection than preventive measures coupled with early antibiotic treatment.
Your continued arthritic symptoms are the consequence of the Lyme Disease infection and is considered Stage 3 of the disease process. Your best protection now is to use all of the protective measures recommended by the CDC:
- wear light-colored clothes to make it easier to see a tick and remove it
- wear long sleeves and long pants tucked into socks or high rubber boots when hiking in areas where Lyme Disease is endemic (Ohio is one of those areas)
- apply DEET-containing insect repellent to exposed skin and clothing when hiking in endemic areas
- have someone check you over for deer tacks after being outdoors
- use the safe tick removal process demonstrated on the CDC web site
- seek medical care promptly if you discover a subsequent tick bite.
To read all of this in detail along with informative pictures, visit the website, http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/lyme/ld_prevent.htm
Mary M Gottesman, PhD, RN, CPNP, FAAN
Professor of Clinical Nursing
College of Nursing
The Ohio State University