Lyme disease is caused by bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi that is only transmitted to humans when they are bitten by an infected tick.
To infect its host, a tick typically must be attached to the skin for at least 36 hours.
The most common symptoms of Lyme disease include a red, circular “Bulls-eye” rash often accompanied by muscle and joint aches. About 70 to 80% of people infected develop the rash, which shows up several days to weeks after the tick bite.
Lyme disease is diagnosed by medical history, physical exam, and sometimes a blood test. It may take four to six weeks for the human immune system to make antibodies against Borrelia burgdorferi and therefore show up in a positive blood test.
That is why patients with the Lyme rash usually have a negative blood test and diagnosis is based on the characteristic appearance of the rash. Patients with other clinical manifestations such as Lyme arthritis will usually have a blood test.
Anyone who has symptoms for longer than six weeks and who have never been treated with antibiotics is unlikely to have Lyme disease if the blood test is negative.
Most cases of Lyme disease are successfully treated with a few antibiotics. Using antibiotics for a very long time does not offer superior results and in fact can be dangerous, because it can cause potentially fatal complications
In taking precautions, if you’re going outdoors in a shady grassland or densely wooded area. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease recommends wearing light-colored long-sleeved pants and shirts to make ticks easier to spot.