Lyme Disease Rising in N.J., Protect Yourself and Your Family

June 25, 2018

Clinical Contributors to this Story

Cynthia L. Vuittonet, M.D. contributes to topics such as Men's Health, Women's Health, Pediatrics.

By Cynthia Vuittonet, M.D.

Data recently released by the New Jersey Department of Health shows Lyme Disease levels last year reached their highest point in almost 20 years. Lyme Disease, caused by the bacterium B. burgdorferi, is transmitted by biting deer ticks. This type of tick is widespread in N.J. and is quite small and can be difficult to see. With the dramatic increase in cases of Lyme Disease, it’s a good time to review the facts about ticks and Lyme Disease.

Within 30 days of a deer tick bite, a circular red patch of about five inches diameter often appears. The rash, if it shows up at all, commonly resembles a bull’s eye. Lyme Disease symptoms may include muscle and joint aches, headache, chills and fever, fatigue or swollen lymph nodes. If left untreated, it could progress to arthritis and problems with the heart and nervous system. The good news is that Lyme Disease is treatable with antibiotics, especially in its early stages.

Preventing tick bites helps to avoid Lyme and other diseases. This can be accomplished by taking precautions before going outside and after. Follow these tips:

  • Know where ticks are likely to gather and try to avoid them. Every county in New Jersey has incidents of Lyme Disease with Morris, Hunterdon, and Monmouth counties leading the pack. Steer clear of tall, thick vegetation.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and spray clothing and uncovered skin with insect repellent that contains at least 20 percent DEET.
  • Check yourself and your children, pets, and any gear you had with you for ticks during and after being outside. Favorite hiding spots include the armpits, ears, belly button, waist, head, hair, between the legs, and behind the knees.

If you find a tick attached to your skin, remove it quickly with fine-tipped tweezers. Sterilize the tip of the tweezers with rubbing alcohol and grasp it close to the skin’s surface. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Try not to twist, squeeze or crush the tick. Doing so can cause its head or mouth to break off and remain imbedded in your skin. If this occurs, use tweezers to remove the remaining parts. If you cannot remove the rest of the tick, seek medical help. Be sure to clean the bite area with soap and water. Most importantly, if you or a loved one has symptoms of Lyme Disease, or you had a tick that was attached for more than 24 hours, see a physician without delay!

Cynthia Vuittonet, M.D., is currently accepting new patients at Hackensack Meridian Health Medical Group Primary Care, located at195 Route 9 South (Suite 106) in Manalapan, NJ, and maintains privileges at Hackensack Meridian Health Raritan Bay Medical Center-Old Bridge. She provides comprehensive and skilled health care services to adult patients. To make an appointment, call 732-360-3522.