Lyme Disease at Work

What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is brought about by the bite of a tick carrying Borrelia burgdorferi. In the United States, 20 thousand people were reported to have the disease in 2010 alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The disease bacterium (Borrelia burgdorferi) normally lives in squirrels, mice, and other small mammals. Workers who work outdoors, especially in bushes, woods, high grass are most likely to experience tick bites. Industries most at risk are landscaping, construction, forestry, land surveying, farming, rail road and oil field work. The incidence rates are higher in late spring and also in summer when the young ticks most active.

What are the manifestations?

The tick bite transmits the bacteria in the skin of the person. It will create red circular rash called erythema migrains or simply bull’s eye. Then upon entry into the bloodstream, the bacteria will multiply and cause systemic manifestations such as fever, fatigue, chills, swollen lymph nodes, muscle and joint pain and constant headaches. If not immediately addressed, the disease will progress and cause debilitating complications such as arthritis and problems in the nervous system and the heart. Some complications start off as confusion and then progress to lethargy. If not halted at this time, it will cause paralysis to the body.

Lyme disease is most detrimental to pregnant mothers for it leads to possible infection of the placenta and stillbirth. Immediate antibiotic treatment should be done in this case.

What is the treatment regimen?

Most symptoms are vague and sometimes unnoticeable. Hus, it is a must that workers deployed in tick-prone areas must submit themselves for regular checkup to rule out Lyme disease.

Mediations will be prescribed to eradicate the disease-causing bacteria. It is a must to follow the treatment regimen religiously, for if one fails to do so, the bacteria might become resistant to the antibiotic therapy.

How to prevent Lyme Disease?

This is a concern for workers and employers alike. Employers must take extra measure to monitor the rate and presence of ticks in the area. Workers must be taught about Lyme disease, specifically its symptoms so they would be able to check their health regularly. Protective gear must be provided for the workers in order to prevent tick bites.

  • Clothing – Workers are advised to wear light-colored clothing and a hat. Long-sleeved shirts and pants tucked into shoes or boots are the best ensemble.
  • Insect repellant – these provide protection from the insects. It is advisable to use repellents with 20 – 30% DEET (N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) on the skin and clothing.
  • Insecticides – these may be used on clothing but do not apply on skin. One time application of insecticides such as permethrin on pants, socks and boots are sure to stay effective after several washes. You can also buy pretreated clothing. They remain protective for up to 70 washings.
  • Check skin and clothes for ticks every day. The young ticks may be too small to see. Better check your hair, groin and underarm for ticks. Use fine-tipped tweezers in removing the ticks and clean the affected area with soap and water.