Seniors and Lyme Disease

A mild winter this year across the northeast has raised the danger for seniors when it comes to Lyme disease. Entomologists are predicting a record crop of Lyme Disease spreading ticks this year as this deadly pest increases its reach across the country.

First diagnosed as a separate disease in 1975 in Old Lyme, Connecticut, the New England Journal of Medicine estimates that every year over 300,000 people in the Northern Hemisphere are infected in the spring and early summer.

As tiny as these parasites are, they carry huge consequences for humans that are bitten by them. They can infect people with maladies like tularemia (which can cause high fevers, body ulcers and ever pneumonia), Heartland virus (which causes symptoms such as fatigue, diarrhea and muscle pain) and of course Lyme Disease.

People of all ages are infected by ticks and the diseases they carry but for seniors the problems can be much more pronounced. As we age, our immune system becomes less effective and an illness that can be fought off by a younger person can prove deadly for the elderly and Lyme Disease is just such an illness.

The symptoms of Lyme Disease can be quite serious but often appear long after the bite occurs. It usually begins with a small rash at the bite location and in many a classic bulls-eye pattern occurs which may be warm to the touch. In late stage Lyme Disease, the victim suffers repeated rashes on the body, facial paralysis, joint pain and arthritis, heart problems and even memory issues. The longer a victim goes untreated, the harder it is to treat and cure.

Seniors who live in homes that are surrounded by wooded areas need to be aware of pests around their homes. Although deer are commonly thought to be the carriers of the infected ticks, small animals like mice and even chipmunks can carry these ticks and transport them to locations inside the house or garage.

Local insect specialist, Tony DeJesus, of Big Blue Bug Solutions, recently said on his Saturday morning radio show on WPRO in Providence that mice are actually a bigger concern than deer when it comes to carrying the tick and spreading this disease.

“If you own property and find mice in areas like your garage or basement, it’s important to take steps to either find ways to seal off ways for mice to get in or trap them and remove them”, said DeJesus. He also advised against vigorous sweeping of mice droppings and suggested that the area be watered down first before using a broom.

If a senior finds a tick on their body it is imperative that they check for bites. Even if they are not sure if they’ve been bitten, seeking medical attention is the most prudent action to take. Some of the neurological symptoms of Lyme Disease can mimic some of the same diseases that affect the elderly so it is important that the doctor test for this condition.

Ignoring the possibility that Lyme Disease may be present could have dire consequences.

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