Lyme disease is an increasingly common disease that can cause acute and chronic arthritis if not treated early and correctly. In rare instances, it can cause life-threatening heart disease and temporary paralysis often to one side of the face due to nerve damage. The disease is caused by an organism known as a spirochete, which is spread from deer ticks to humans via tick bites. Lyme disease is especially common in communities with large deer populations, which today includes much of the suburban United States as well as rural areas.
Ticks must remain in place on the human skin at least 12 to 24 hours in order to extract human blood and inject the spirochete organism at the site of the bite. Complete removal of the small but visible tick within 24 hours usually prevents the disease. Deer ticks are most abundant in the late spring and tend to live on tall grasses from which they can easily move to the bare legs of children and adults. The disease frequently first appears as a circular red rash around the site of the bite. At this stage, early diagnosis and treatment with antibiotics is usually successful. Several weeks or months later, the onset of arthritis may occur and can be difficult to diagnose. A missed diagnosis may result in severe arthritis that is difficult to treat. A vaccine has been developed and briefly marketed to prevent the disease, but it was quite expensive and only partially successful.
In your new hometown, the local health department is charged with developing a plan for control or elimination of Lyme disease. As an informed and concerned citizen, you are invited to give input on the plan, identifying possible interventions.