Most of the literature points out that Lyme is usually easily treated once identified. Fortunately, doctors now know that Lyme is fairly common locally and are better prepared to order blood tests to confirm if Lyme is the problem. Advanced stages of the disease are usually treated with intravenous drugs, which may include medicines that reduce swelling in joints.
Probably the best approach for dealing with Lyme disease is to try to avoid contact with the ticks that carry it, but that is not an option for those who enjoy the outdoors. If you need to be in the field, the recommendation is to wear long clothing, tuck pants legs into boots and wear long-sleeve shirts. Most people won't do that when it's hot and humid outside, but that's the recommendation.
The CDC and other organizations also recommend the use of insect repellents. According to the CDC, the risk of tick attachment can be reduced by using insect repellents containing DEET to clothes and exposed skin.
Lyme is very common in dogs in this region, and there is a Lyme vaccine for dogs. Our vets recommend it. I know of three cases where field trail labs were confirmed positive for Lyme in the past year. Deer and deer ticks are everywhere now, so the safest bet is to get the vaccine - even for some house dogs.
No one is recommending that you eliminate outdoors activities in fear of Lyme, but it is something to be aware of. A few basic safety precautions certainly make sense. Don't forget your dogs. It seems like we are hearing more and more about pets getting Lyme disease, so you should consult with your vet on the best approach for your situation.
For more information on Lyme disease, go to the American Lyme Disease Foundation Web site at www.lyme.org.
Bill Anderson writes a weekly outdoors column for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.