Lyme disease is an illness caused by the transmission of a bacterial/spirochetal organism (germ) known as Borrelia burgdorferi. In order to contract this illness, one must be bitten by a deer tick, Ixodes scapularis, (also known as Ixodes damnii) that harbors this organism within its system. Clasically, this illness presents itself as a rash known as Erythema migrans- the Bullseye Rash. This rash is not seen in all cases of Lyme Disease, or is often missed due to its location on the body. (Such as the scalp, on the back, the arms or the legs, etc.) The rash is sometimes variable in shape: it can be oval or round, and lack the pale center that is a classic sign of the Bullseye Rash. It can also be variable in size, ranging from 2 inches to 20 inches in diameter, and in number. (There may be multiple rashes present at a time, from 1 to 10) The rash does not have to occur at the site of the bite. The rash usually does not have any symptoms associated with it. It does not itch, and is not usually warm.
Other early symptoms are often a flu-like illness. Typically, Lyme Disease is known by the range of symptoms that it can inflict. These can include join pains, headaches, myalgias, (muscle aches and pains) paresthesias, and anethesias. (odd sensations of pain, tingling, burning, or numbness in the skin) Other symptoms include mental confusion or fogginess of thoughts, memory problems, meningitis, (cerobrospinal and meningeal inflammation with symptoms of stiff neck) swollen glands, sore throats, elevated liver tests, tinnitus, visual distrubrances, and other various symptoms. In severe cases of Lyme Disease, the heart can be affected by the development of damage to the heart valves, muscle, and electrical system. (Heart block is the most serious consequence)
Lyme Disease is on the rise, and likely will continue for the forseeable future. Cases statewide were reported as less than 250 in 1987, and have increased to nearly 3500 cases in 1998. There were 814 reported and verified/confirmed cases of Lyme Disease in Fairfield Country alone in 1998. This represents approximately 23% of the statewide cases in 1998.