48 Hours to Avoid Lyme Disease After a Tick Bites You

July 05, 2017

A newly discovered Bacteria threat 

Recently, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published data on newly discovered bacteria called Borrelia mayonii, which has been found to cause Lyme disease. The researchers wanted to see if these new bacteria could infect people in less time after a tick attaches than the common Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria.

With B. burgdorferi, it usually takes between 36 to 48 hours after a tick bite for a human to contract Lyme disease. The CDC researchers exposed 160 mice to ticks at the “nymph” stage of development. Ninety-one of the mice were bitten by ticks infected with B. mayonii. The mice were then tested at 24, 48, and 72 hours after the tick initially started feeding. They also tested the mice after the tick fully finished feeding, usually around four to five days after the initial bite. Lyme disease symptoms start to show at different times.

Lyme disease

Like other tick-borne diseases, the mice showed no signs of infection 24 and 48 hours after being bitten. However, the risk quickly went up from there. At 72 hours, 31 percent of the mice were infected, and after the tick finished feeding, 57 percent of the mice were infected. This is when you first see the long term effects of Lyme disease.

 “There is much still to discover about B. mayonii, including to clarify the geographic range of this emerging human pathogen in the U.S., to determine how commonly different life stages of the blacklegged tick are infected with B. mayonii, and to find out whether the same vertebrate animals that serve as natural reservoirs for B. burgdorferi play the same role also for B. mayonii,” said Eisen.

Early detection is key

Stephen Morse, PhD, an epidemiologist at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, said that the findings were “reassuring.” 

“The general wisdom about it was even if you didn’t find the tick immediately it would take about 48 hours to contract Lyme disease”, said Morse. “This seems to be true here, too.” Morse said of the data that can now help to inform people on how to enjoy the outdoors safely.

He pointed out that in areas with high numbers of ticks, people may need to take precautions even if they just go into their own backyards. “If you’ve got a nice backyard, you can use that mosquito repellent or bug repellent,” he said. “In addition, there are obviously the usual precautions of don’t leave a lot of exposed skin, and be careful if you're climbing in the underbrush.”

Tips for staying safe

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, explained that since tick bites aren’t usually painful, it’s important to do a tick check after going outdoors to decrease the risk of Lyme disease. “If you can find them in short order and then take them off, obviously your risk of acquiring infection — even if the tick was infected — goes way down,” he told Healthline. Chronic Lyme disease symptoms are a result of a person not doing a proper tick check and ignoring the warning signs.

Schaffner said ticks tend to feed in sheltered areas such as the hairline, underarms, and groin area. Among the CDC’s recommendations is avoiding brushy areas or trails that are heavily wooded, since the ticks can quickly transfer from a leaf to a hiker. Also, bug repellant that contains at least 20 percent DEET, picaridin, or IR3535 can diminish the risk of a tick bite.

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