People and animals usually contract Lyme disease between April and November when deer ticks are active. May through July is the highest risk period because tick nymphs are abundant and active. Most people contract Lyme disease from nymphs because they are about the size of a pin head and easily overlooked. Wear light clothing in the woods. Tuck pant legs into your socks. Use insect repellent.

Symptoms of Lyme disease typically begin with a characteristic red zone around the site of the tick bite within three to 30 days of being bitten by an infected tick. It sometimes forms a ring-shaped bull’s eye. Fatigue, fever, headaches, stiffness, and muscle and joint pain are common symptoms of Lyme disease. If left untreated, the rash may disappear, and dizziness, irregular heartbeat, arthritis, and nervous system disorders can develop. Dogs, horses and cattle also suffer joint swelling and achiness caused by Lyme disease.

An infected nymph can usually transmit the disease in two days or more; adult ticks can take longer to transmit the spirochete. White-footed mice are the main reservoir for the spirochete. Treatment is usually successful with the use of antibiotics, especially if Lyme disease is detected in the early stages. Maine Medical Center’s Vector-borne Disease Lab educates physicians about Lyme disease in areas where the disease is making inroads. Doctors in York, Cumberland and Sagadahoc counties have seen Lyme disease cases longer than those who treat patients farther east and north.