Lyme Disease Facts

This is an excerpt from the article “Lyme Disease Facts”. For more information, please visit www.osha.gov.

OSHA has published a hazard information bulletin (HIB) to provide guidance to people who reside in high or moderate risk areas in the United States and who are exposed to ticks during the course of their work and thus at risk of contracting Lyme disease.*

* Examples of outdoor work which may be associated with increased risk of exposure to infected ticks include: construction work, landscaping, forestry, brush clearing, land surveying, farming, railroad work, oil field work, utility line work, and park/wildlife management. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed a national Lyme disease risk map in which CDC identified areas of the U.S. as minimal or no risk, low risk, moderate risk, or high risk for predicted Lyme disease. Areas at high or moderate risk include many counties in the Northeast U.S., some areas around the Great Lakes, and an area in Northern California. It is important that state and local health department authorities be consulted to determine risk in any given area, since risk can vary even within a county, and perhaps from year to year. Lyme disease is caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, a bacterium carried in the gut of certain ticks. When these infected ticks attach to the human body (often in armpits, groin, scalp, or other hairy, hidden body areas), they slowly feed, and within 36-48 hours they may transmit B. burgdorferi to their human host. Young ticks are especially abundant and are seeking hosts in late spring and early summer, although adult ticks can transmit infection as well. Note: This map demonstrates an approximate distribution of predicted Lyme disease risk in the United States. The true relative risk in any given county compared with other counties might differ from that shown here and might change from year to year.1 High risk Moderate risk Low risk Minimal or no risk

National Lyme disease risk map with four categories of risk

Although a majority of people with Lyme disease develop a “bulls-eye” rash, 20-40% of persons who have the disease do not have a rash. Other signs and symptoms may be non-specific and similar to flu symptoms (e.g., fever, lymph node swelling, neck stiffness, generalized fatigue, headaches, migrating joint aches, or muscle aches). Diagnosis is based on a history of known exposure and development of clinical signs and symptoms, with blood testing providing valuable supportive information. Most cases of Lyme disease can be successfully treated with antibiotics. It is very important that Lyme disease be diagnosed and treated with antibiotics, since untreated Lyme disease may result in symptoms (i.e., arthritis, muscle pain, heart disease, brain and nerve disorders) that are severe, chronic, and disabling.

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