MYTH: LYME DISEASE ALWAYS CAUSES A BULLS-EYE RASH
FACT: Less than 50% of people who have been infected with Lyme Disease will develop a “bulls-eye” rash1, the most common rash associated with Lyme Disease. The Erythema Migrans rash of Lyme Disease can also take many different forms: the rash may not be circular; there can be many rashes at once; and the rash does not have to be at the site of the tick bite. The rash may also resemble other skin conditions, like those associated with lupus, contact dermatitis or a spider bite. However, if the “bulls-eye” rash is present, you have Lyme Disease and treatment should be started immediately.
MYTH: YOU WILL KNOW IF YOU HAVE BEEN BITTEN BY A TICK
FACT: Tick bites are painless because of a numbing agent in the tick’s saliva. Fewer than 50% of patients diagnosed with Lyme Disease recall a tick bite2.
MYTH: YOU DON’T HAVE LYME DISEASE BECAUSE THE BLOOD TEST WAS NEGATIVE
FACT: The CDC stresses that a diagnosis of Lyme Disease should be based on symptoms, physical findings (e.g. rash) and exposure to infected ticks3. They have stated that their surveillance criteria is used to “establish uniform criteria for disease reporting and should not be used as the sole criteria4” in diagnosing and treating Lyme Disease. A negative test result does not mean you don’t have Lyme Disease. There may not have been time for antibodies to develop; the immune system may be suppressed; or the person may be infected with a strain the test doesn’t measure5. Dr. Steven E. Schutzer, MD, Professor of Medicine at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey says, “You may test negative right after a bite, but positive several weeks later.”
MYTH: IF YOU HAVE BEEN INFECTED WITH LYME DISEASE, YOU CAN’T BE INFECTED AGAIN
FACT: Lyme Disease is a bacterial infection, which means there is not limit on the number of times you can be infected. If you are exposed to the bacteria again, through another tick bite, you can become reinfected and require treatment.
MYTH: LYME DISEASE IS FOUND MOSTLY IN CONNECTICUT
Lyme Disease has been found all across the United States, with a particular concentration in the Northeast. According to the CDC, in 2014, 96% of confirmed Lyme Disease cases were reported from just 14 states: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin6. The state of Pennsylvania ranked #1 in 2014 with the most Lyme Disease cases. However, the CDC also acknowledges that this number does not reflect every case of Lyme Disease that is diagnosed in the US every year, since only a fraction of the illnesses are reported. Paul Mead, MD, MPH, Chief of Epidemiology and Surveillance for the CDC stated, “We know that routine surveillance only gives us part of the picture, and that the true number of illnesses is much greater.” After conducting two studies, the CDC suggested that the number of people diagnosed with Lyme Disease each year in the US is around 300,0007.
1“Top 10 Myths About Lyme Disease.” Lyme Research Alliance | A Non-Profit Research, Education and Advocacy Network. Web. 20 Feb. 2016.
2“Basic Information about Lyme Disease.” ILADS. Web. 20 Feb. 2016.
3“Lyme Disease.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 18 Nov. 2015. Web. 20 Feb. 2016.
4“Health Care Providers.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 04 Nov. 2015. Web. 20 Feb. 2016.
6“Data and Statistics.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 24 Sept. 2015. Web. 20 Feb. 2016.
7“How Many People Get Lyme Disease?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30 Sept. 2015. Web. 20 Feb. 2016.