Lyme disease is an illness caused by the bite of an infected tick. In California, the western blacklegged tick (Ixodes pacificus) can spread the bacteria that cause Lyme disease.
Lyme disease may start as a mild illness that begins 3 to 30 days after a tick bite and might easily be mistaken for other common illnesses like a cold or flu. Symptoms can include fever, chills, muscle and joint pain, and a red, painless rash that may spread over time. If Lyme disease is not treated, it might develop into more severe health problems.
The best way to prevent Lyme disease is to prevent tick bites. Ticks live in shaded outdoor areas with grass, shrubs, rocks, logs, and fallen leaves. Ticks are usually hiding in these areas waiting to bite and feed on an animal or person passing by. Follow these steps to help prevent tick bites and Lyme disease:
If you are bitten by a tick, it's important to watch for symptoms that may appear up to 30 days after being bitten. If you develop fever, body aches, joint pain, or a painless rash after a tick bite, see a healthcare provider and tell them if you were outdoors in areas with ticks. Lyme disease can be successfully treated, especially if treatment is started early.
- Use an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered repellent on clothes and uncovered skin to keep ticks off you.
- While spending time outside in areas where ticks are common and after coming indoors, check your body and clothes for ticks. If you find a tick crawling on you, brush it off. If you find a tick attached to your skin, remove it with tweezers right away.
- An infected western blacklegged tick must be attached to a person and feed at least 24 hours before it can transmit the bacteria that cause Lyme disease.