The Curse of Oak Island: What is Lyme disease?

Rick Lagina and tick
Rick Lagina talks about catching Lyme disease and, inset, the tick

Rick Lagina caught Lyme disease on this week’s The Curse of Oak Island — and it’s lucky he got treatment early on, because it can have some very serious consequences.

Rick, who is famously averse to doctors, was persuaded to go to a clinic by brother Marty after seeing a bite Rick showed him on his back.

A close-up revealed a distinctive “bull’s-eye” pattern of rings, one of the tell-tale signs of a Lyme disease bite.

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What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?

Lyme disease, also known as Lyme borreliosis, is a bacterial infection caught through the bite of the Ixodes tick, more commonly known as the deer tick.

Early symptoms include the distinctive circular “bull’s-eye” rash like the one Rick had, although a third of victims won’t develop a rash. Some people also get symptoms similar to the flu, including muscle and joint pain, a stiff neck, fever, headaches, chills, and fatigue.

Rick Lagina's Lyme disease bite
The tell-tale “bull’s-eye” bit on Rick Lagina’s back, as shown on the show

What are the possible complications?

If Lyme disease is not caught early it can cause more serious problems later on — sometimes several months or even years down the line.

These can include heart problems including heart failure, nervous system problems like facial paralysis or memory problems, pain and swelling in the joints, and things like severe headaches caused by the membranes around the brain and spinal cord becoming inflamed.

If treatment is not started early on, some of these symptoms can be hard to treat and can continue to persist for many disease, often in quite a debilitating way.

How is it treated?

Lyme disease is generally treated with a two- to four-week course of antibiotics.

How can you help prevent it?

The best way to avoid getting Lyme disease is to avoid getting bitten by ticks when in at-risk areas. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 95 per cent of reported Lyme disease cases come from just 14 states.

To avoid getting bitten you should can do things like avoid long grass when out walking, wearing long trousers tucked into socks, and using insect repellent. It is also worth checking for ticks on your skin after spending time in an at risk area.

If you find a tick on your skin, remove it using tweezers or a special tick-removing device which prevents the tick being squashed while it is being removed.

When using tweezers, grip the tick as gently as possible as close to the head as possible and pull it away from the skin in a steady motion without crushing it.

The Curse of Oak Island airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on History.

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