Lyme Disease not common, but still a risk

People who spend time outdoors need to be aware

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – About 300,000 people are diagnosed with Lyme Disease each year. The disease comes from infected deer ticks that bite humans. Here in Florida we spend a lot of time outside and with hunting season right around the corner doctors want you to be extra careful.

People who love the outdoors are at the most risk because ticks are typically found in the woods and in grass. Dr. D.J. Williams with UF Health Jacksonville says the hardest part about the disease is identifying it.

"It's a bacteria that's harbored within the tick its species called Borrelia burgdorferi which we have around here," says Williams. "And when that tick latches onto you it allows that bacteria to go into your body."

Williams with Lyme Disease isn't too common in Florida, but shouldn't be taken lightly.

Williams says there are several stages to Lyme Disease. First a deer tick latches on to a person.The tick has to be there for a full 3 days and only 25 percent of those people will develop the disease. Second a person develops a rash that Dr. Williams says looks similar to a bulls eye. Third the disease can cause never damage as well as severe arthritis. And the fourth is even more detrimental to your body.

"If its untreated in the earlier stages Lyme disease can be chronic," Williams says. "Meaning it can extend for years where people can have joint pain heart trouble nerve trouble which can affect any part of the body and can go on for the rest of their life."

Williams says the best way to keep yourself safe is to be aware when you're in grassy or wooded areas, wear long layers of clothing and most importantly be proactive.

"Lyme disease can strike anybody at any age," Williams warns. "Treatments are a little different for adults than little kids but we have many treatment options which are very effective the real challenge is identifying it in the first place so that means being aware if you've had exposure."

Williams also says you can use bug spray with DEET in it. When you get home from an outdoor activity, check your whole body, especially in hidden places like your arm pits, scalp and ears where they tend to hide.