Lyme Disease

enlarged picture of tickLyme disease was virtually not present in the U.S. 20 years ago; up until 5 years ago it was mostly an east coast problem. It's spread has been so quick that doctors here on the west coast did not, at first, correctly diagnose it.

Ticks, which transmit the disease, are small bugs (related to the spider). An adult is about the size of a grape seed; the nymph (the principle transmitter) about the size of a pin head. This picture of a tick is much enlarged.

Butte County, and the surrounding valley and foothills, have significant tick populations and lyme disease is now being carried by some of them - up to 4% of the tick population in some areas.

The disease is not transmitted immediately. First the tick begins to suck blood and only later (perhaps 2 or more days later) does the disease transmit from the tick to the human host when some of the now infected blood is regurgitated back to the human. It is for this reason that no one needs to be fearful about venturing into our wonderful countryside - only be careful about preventative measures and diligent about performing a complete "tick patrol" at regular intervals (maybe about every 8 to 12 hours).

Since prevention of the disease is dependent on individual actions and the initial recognition will probably be self-diagnosis, it is important that we all educate ourselves about this new disease.

Following is from a brochure by the Butte County Mosquito and Vector Control Agency, except for bracketed "[ ]" editorial insertions:

Lyme Disease is a preventable, bacterial disease transmitted to humans by the bite of the Western Black-legged tick, Ixodes Pacificus. [This is one of several ticks found in the Yahi Group area; it is most prevelent in the foothills.]

Lyme Disease was named for Old Lyme, Connecticut where it was first recognized. In 1978 the first cases were reported in California, and it has since become the most common tick-borne disease in California, as well as in the United States.

Adult ticks become active in the fall after the first rains, and are most numerous between January and June. They are less active during hot dry weather, but can be found year 'round, however.

Ixodes pacificus can be found on grasses, brush, and in wooded areas. Ticks do not fly, jump or drop from trees. They climb to the tips of vegetation, typically along animals trails or paths, and wait for an animal or human host to brush by so they can attach themselves.

An early sign of Lyme Disease may include a bull's-eye rash (occurs in 60-80% of the cases), as well as flu-like symptoms; fever, aches and/or fatigue. Possible complications of the heart and/or nervous system may occur as well as joint pain. Acute symptoms include chronic arthritis of large joints (usually knees), dementia, encephalitis, behavioral changes, memory loss. If treated early with antibiotics, Lyme Disease can often be cured.

When enjoying the outdoors, especially in the foothill areas of Butte County, special precautions should be taken:

  • Wear long pants and long-sleeved clothing. Shoes should cover toes. don't wear shorts, sandals, or sleeveless shirts.
  • Wear light colored clothing so ticks can be easily seen and removed before they become attached to skin.
  • Tuck pants into socks or boots, and shirt into pants.
  • Use repellents around shoes, ankles and on exposed skin.
  • Choose wide trails and walk in the center. Avoid brushy and grassy areas and off-the-trail hikes.
  • Thoroughly check yourself and your children frequently for ticks.


  1. Grasp tick with tissue or tweezers (never with bare hands), as close to your skin as possible. If ticks are crushed with bare fingers, exposure to the tick body fluids may lead to transmission of the disease organism.
  2. Gently pull the tick from the skin. Do not twist, "unscrew", burn with cigarette, apply kerosene, Vaseline, or other irritants to the tick! [These methods may be successful in removing the tick, but they may also cause it to regurgitate disease carrying fluid into the bloodstream.]
  3. Apply an antiseptic to the bite area after removing the tick. Wash your hands with soap and water.
  4. If the tick cannot be removed or part of it is left in the skin, consult your physician.

[Please contact a local vector control agency regarding the possibility and procedures for testing.]

If you suspect that you have Lyme Disease, consult your physician. Be sure to relate your symptoms, date of tick bite, and [any] tick test results.

Lyme Disease can also occur in dogs. Contact your veterinarian for information on preventative vaccinations, special collars and sprays which are available for dogs.

For more information, contact the Agency at:

  • For northern Butte County: 530-342-7350
  • For southern Butte County: 530-533-6038

The following was excerpted from the information provided by the Center for Disease Control which has significant information on lyme disease (see below):

Ticks can attach to any part of the human body but often attach to the more hidden and hairy areas such as the groin, armpits, and scalp.

Research in the eastern United States has indicated that, for the most part, ticks transmit Lyme disease to humans during the nymph stage, probably because nymphs are more likely to feed on a person and are rarely noticed because of their small size (less than 2 mm). Thus, the nymphs typically have ample time to feed and transmit the infection (ticks are most likely to transmit infection after approximately 2 or more days of feeding).

Tick larvae are smaller than the nymphs, but they rarely carry the infection at the time of feeding and are probably not important in the transmission of Lyme disease to humans.

Adult ticks can transmit the disease, but since they are larger and more likely to be removed from a person's body within a few hours, they are less likely than the nymphs to have sufficient time to transmit the infection. Moreover, adult Ixodes ticks are most active during the cooler months of the year, when outdoor activity is limited.

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