Lyme disease is caused by bacteria that some people get after being bitten by ticks infected with an organism named Borrelia burgdorferi. The organism that causes Lyme disease is maintained in wild rodents, deer, other mammals and certain ticks, most commonly the black-legged (deer) tick. It is transferred to people by the bite of an infected tick.
People of any age and in any part of Loudoun County can get Lyme disease. Infections occur throughout the year, but are more common during the late spring and summer and in people who work or play outdoors. Dogs, cats and horses can also get Lyme disease.
Signs & Symptoms
In most people, the first evidence of Lyme disease infection consists of a "bulls eye" skin rash at the site of the tick bite or developing such flu-like symptoms as fatigue, fever, headache, stiff neck, and/or muscle or joint pain within three to 30 days after being bitten by an infected tick.
The "bulls eye" rash, called erythema migrans (EM), is red and slowly gets bigger, usually with a clearing in the center. It is not painful and does not itch.
More information is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Both the rash and flu-like symptoms may last up to several weeks and will typically go away with or without treatment. If the early infection is not treated though, other problems may develop such as nervous system disorders, heart problems, or joint swelling and pain.
Other Tick-Related Illnesses
- Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
- Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness from the CDC
There is currently no Lyme disease vaccine available for people. The best way to prevent getting Lyme disease is to reduce your chances of getting bitten by a tick and making sure that no tick is attached for more than a day. Steps you can take include:
- Avoid tick-infested areas, such as tall grasses, whenever feasible.
- Clothes may be pretreated with a tick repellent called permethrin. Other tick repellents are available for treating the skin, but be sure to follow label instructions before using any repellent. The following links are helpful insect repellent guides:
- Do a tick check whenever you return from a potential tick habitat and at least once a day. Remove any attached ticks promptly and carefully by gripping the tick with tweezers as close to the skin as possible and using a gentle steady pulling action. Protect hands with gloves, cloth, or tissue when removing ticks from people or animals.
- Keep ticks off your property by controlling deer and mouse populations - making your property less tick friendly - and consider an annual pesticide application. More information on tick proofing your property is available in the Tick Management Handbook (PDF).
- Wear light-colored clothing with long sleeves and long pants and tuck your pants into your socks.
Consistent with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and prevention (CDC), the Loudoun County Health Department does not test ticks for the infection that causes Lyme or other diseases. Tick species can be identified by the Health Department; to schedule an appointment, call 703-777-0234.
Loudoun County has many resources available to help promote community awareness about the prevention of Lyme disease.
- Facebook Page
- Loudoun Targets Lyme Initiative
- Insect Repellent (PDF)
- Lyme Disease Brochure (PDF) (Spanish (PDF))
- Lyme Disease Information from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
- Preventing Tick-Borne Diseases in Virginia (PDF)
- Tick Management Handbook (PDF)
- Tick Poster (PDF)
- Tick Tips from the CDC
- Loudoun Medical Reserve Corps The Loudoun MRC includes volunteers who assist with public health responses in our community, including Lyme disease outreach.