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May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month and Maine officials have issued a health advisory on Lyme disease and other tickborne diseases.

With its abdomen engorged with a host blood meal, this image depicts a lateral, or side view of a female blacklegged, or deer tick, Ixodes scapularis/CDC

Ticks are already active this year. As the weather continues to get warmer into the spring and summer months, Maine expects the number of Lyme and other tickborne disease case reports to increase.

The burden of human tickborne illnesses in Maine continues to increase every year. While Lyme disease is still the most common tickborne disease reported in Maine, the rate of many other tickborne illnesses also continues to increase.

In 2022, Maine CDC preliminarily reported 2,636 Lyme disease cases (a new annual record), 824 anaplasmosis cases, 192 babesiosis cases, 12 Hard Tick Relapsing Fever (HTRF, formerly Borrelia miyamotoi disease) cases, 7 ehrlichiosis cases, 4 Powassan cases, and one case each of ehrlichiosis/anaplasmosis (undetermined), Spotted Fever Rickettsiosis (SFR), and tularemia.

In recent years, Maine CDC also reported cases of Alpha-Gal Syndrome (AGS, also called alpha-gal allergy or red meat allergy) and Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness (STARI), which are not notifiable conditions, in Maine residents.

To date in 2023, Maine has reported 374 Lyme disease cases, 14 cases of anaplasmosis and 4 babesiosis cases through May 3.

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Symptoms of Lyme disease include:  The most common early symptom of Lyme disease is an expanding red rash (erythema migrans) that occurs 3-30 days after a bite. Fever, headache, joint pain, or muscle pain may also occur. Some of these non-specific symptoms are similar to the symptoms of COVID-19, influenza, and other infections. Untreated infections can lead to rheumatologic, cardiac, and neurologic manifestations like Lyme carditis and meningoencephalitis. Lyme disease is treatable, and most patients recover after receiving appropriate therapy.

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Symptoms of other tickborne diseases of concern in Maine include:
• Anaplasmosis: fever, headache, malaise and body aches.
• Babesiosis: extreme fatigue, aches, fever, chills, sweating, dark urine, and possibly anemia.
• HTRF: fever, chills, headache, body and joint pain, and fatigue.
• Powassan virus disease: fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, loss of coordination,
speech difficulties, seizures, and encephalitis and meningitis.
• AGS: hives, anaphylaxis, gastrointestinal symptoms, and hypotension.

What to do after a tick bite
• Remove the tick properly using tweezers or a tick spoon.
• Clean the area around the bite.
• Instruct the patient to watch for signs and symptoms for 30 days.
• Identify the tick and the engorgement level (the amount of time the tick was attached).

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