Lyme disease is an infectious condition with quite unpleasant consequences. Fortunately, even though it was diagnosed for the first time only 30 years ago, the causes of Lyme disease are now well known and thoroughly researched, so it’s quite possible to ensure effective Lyme disease prevention in many high risk areas. The disease occurs if you are infected by a bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi, which you get from the bites of the so-called deer ticks (Ixodes dammini in the United States and Ixodes ricinis in Europe). Don’t let the name fool you, these ticks are not found only on deer; they can be carried by any animal with fur, and they usually live in areas with woods and tall grass. But at the end of the day everybody wants to know this: how can it be prevented, and also, is Lyme disease contagious?
The best Lyme disease prevention method is to prevent tick bites. This is not as simple as it sounds. The ticks are tiny creatures, the size of a sesame seed, and they can hide easily in skin folds. However, they are slow-moving insects, so they are not likely to get all over the body. Also, a tick needs to be imbedded in the skin for at least 24 hours before it can pass on the infection, so if you find one you can remove it in time. Use tweezers to remove them gently, and then clean the area with a disinfectant, and, most importantly, don’t panic; only about 1% to 3% of bites actually cause the infection.
When walking in tall grass or in areas with reported tick infestation, wear long pants and long sleeves, and check your entire body carefully every evening before going to bed. Insect repellants are highly recommended for Lyme disease prevention – particularly DEET (which is quite common and found in most brands available on the market today). When you use the repellant, check to see that it contains less than 10% DEET, otherwise it may be harmful.
So is Lyme disease contagious? The answer is a definite no. The infection cannot spread from one humanto another, and not even from one sick animal to another. There are no other known causes of Lyme disease except for tick bites; as far as we know, the disease cannot be caused by any other insects (flies, mosquitoes, fleas and so on). However, as a common-sense Lyme disease prevention method, people who know they have the disease should not donate blood.
Even cases of mothers passing the disease to children are rare, and also considered the only situations in which the Lyme disease might be contagious; however, the condition is very difficult to treat in pregnant women, mostly because the antibiotic treatment can harm the unborn child. There is no evidence that a breastfeeding mother with Lyme disease can pass it to her child, but she is usually recommended to stop nursing for the duration of the treatment.
A vaccine has been developed for Lyme disease prevention, effective in about 85% of cases, but it is recommended only to those working or living in high risk conditions. It is not yet known how often it needs to be administered or for how long it ensures protection.