The Consequences of Mistaking Lyme Disease for COVID-19

Summer is approaching, and Lyme disease is coming with it. Ticks and wildlife are more active in the warmer months, leading to an increase in tick-spread diseases. But because we are in the midst of a global pandemic, and the symptoms of COVID-19 and Lyme disease can overlap, some people may mistake one condition for the other. This is dangerous, as it stops people from seeking the correct treatment.

About Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is a vector-borne disease spread through ticks. These ticks spread the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. According to the CDC, there are 30,000 new cases reported annually. Symptoms of this disease come in stages, and they progress depending on how long one has been infected. Three to 30 days after infection, a rash will appear at the site of the bite. Symptoms that follow include fever, chills, fatigue, headaches, pain in the muscles and joints, and swollen lymph nodes. In the days or months following infection, symptoms will evolve into severe headaches, additional rashes, neck stiffness, facial palsy, severe swelling and pain in the joints, arthritis, dizziness, shortness of breath, an irregular heartbeat, nerve pain, inflammation in the spinal cord and brain, shooting pains, numbness, tingling, and pain in the tendons, muscles, joints, and bones.

A diagnosis is obtained through the finding of characteristic symptoms, asking about exposure to ticks, ruling out other conditions, and various lab tests. A two step blood test will be conducted in order to confirm a diagnosis. Rapid diagnosis is necessary for effective treatment. If it is caught during the early stages, antibiotics are a quick cure. People may also develop post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome, which requires additional treatment. Preventing tick bites or removing them quickly is a good way to prevent Lyme disease as well.

Lyme Disease and COVID-19

Ticks become very active in the summer, and this summer is no different. In fact, ticks and other wildlife may be even bolder this season, as they have gotten used to all of the humans staying inside during the pandemic. It is for this reason that everyone should look out for the characteristic symptoms of Lyme disease and other illnesses spread by ticks. Spotted fevers are another one to be aware of.

This may be more difficult this summer, as many of the symptoms of Lyme disease are comparable to those of the novel coronavirus. Mistaking one illness for the other can lead to a delay in diagnosis and treatment. If one does have Lyme disease, a delay is a major issue.

Antibiotic treatment can typically kill the bacteria that causes Lyme disease in about two weeks, especially if it is caught early. If no medical help is sought, complications will arise. These include arthritis, heart issues, and neurological and cognitive problems.

To combat this, medical professionals and others should spread awareness about tick-borne diseases. Typical measures taken to avoid ticks, such as wearing bug spray and long sleeves, should also be used. While ticks are pests, simple steps can be taken to ensure that they don’t ruin your summer.

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