Lyme disease: prevent, recognize and treat

The arrival of spring and the rise in temperature also mean the return and reproduction of ticks. May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month and helps educate the public about the symptoms and causes of this disease.

In Europe, this is considered the vector-borne disease* most prevalent in the rregion and more than 360,000 cases have been reported over the past two decades. In France, the Institut Pasteur gives an estimated annual incidence rate (number of new cases). about 53 per 100,000 population between 2009 and 2017.

On this occasion, UNRIC interviewed that Doctor Oceane SorelSpecialist in virology, immunology and member of “Team Halo” of the United Nations** on this disease. You can also find her on Instagram, @thefrenchvirologist where she popularizes medical science with humor.

What is Lyme disease?

It is an infectious disease caused by a bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi. It is transmitted through the bite of a tick infected with the bacterium.

When you are bitten by an infected tick, the bacteria enter your body through its saliva, multiply and spread.

Transmission of the bacteria takes time and therefore the risk of infection is generally low if the tick has been on your body for less than 24 hours.

This disease is transmitted only via tick bites and not transferrable from person to person.

What are the symptoms ?

The most visible and recognizable symptom is a very distinctive mark on the skin: a red dot surrounded by white and then another red circle, a bit like a target. It is an erythema migrans that occurs around the site of the tick bite.

Flu-like symptoms can also occur such as fever, chills, headache or body aches.

If the disease is not treated quickly within a few weeks after the bacteria has spread, other symptoms such as nerve, joint or even skin diseases can appear, which can eventually leave sequelae.

© Eric Karits/Unsplash

When and how is it diagnosed?

Without symptoms, there is no point in getting tested for Lyme disease.

On the other hand, if there is one erythema migrans, The diagnosis can be made with certainty.

Other items to consider in addition to the above symptoms:

  • suggestive symptoms;
  • Epidemiological elements (is the bite new? Is the bacterium present in the geographical area?);
  • As well as blood tests, ELISA and Western Blot, both of which must be positive.

What is the treatment for Lyme disease?

Most people recover from the disease without sequelae after a antibiotic treatment with the aim of eliminating the bacteria. This treatment should be started as soon as possible after diagnosis.

In rarer cases, if the disease is not treated in a timely manner, certain symptoms may persist, such as: B. fatigue, nervous disorders or joint pain. These symptoms are called Post-Lyme Syndrome » but the Causes still unclear and are the subject of controversy in the scientific and medical world.

Is there a vaccine?

Unfortunately, there is no vaccine on the market yet, although some are in development.

How can we protect ourselves?

To avoid tick bites, you should be careful in risk areas such as forests or tall grass long clothes and make a habit of being healthyinspect the body after a nature walk.

There are some too repellent effective against ticks.

Do climate change and changes in biodiversity have an impact on the development of the bacterium or on its transmission?

Lyme disease primarily affects temperate regions of the northern hemisphere. Some geographic areas are more affected than others.

Future climate changes are likely to favor the spread of Lyme diseasesince they strongly influence ecosystems.

Therefore, to counter this threat, it is necessary to strengthen Precautions such as public information, surveillance activities and standardized data collection methods.

In 2016, the WHO launched a new one strategic approach called Global Vector Control Action 2017-2030 aimed at combating these diseases while minimizing the impact on the environment.

*Vector-borne diseases are diseases caused by parasites, viruses, or bacteria that are transmitted by vectors. Vectors are living organisms capable of transmitting infectious diseases from one host (animal or human) to another.

**Founded as part of the United Nations Verified initiative, Team Halo brings together scientists and medical professionals from around the world working to combat scientific misinformation.

To learn more about Doctor Sorel’s expertise:

COVID-19, Children and Vaccines: Your Questions Answered (

Papillomavirus: a vaccine for all young people? (


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