ABC Guide to Travel Health - Vaccines, Vaccinations

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Lyme disease

Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi which is transmitted by the bite of infected ticks. Following a tick bite 80% of people will develop a red, slowly expanding ring form of skin lesions around the bite, often with a central clear zone. In addition, they will experience general tiredness, fever, headache, stiff neck, muscle aches, and joint pain. If untreated, weeks, months to years later some people may develop arthritis, abnormalities relating to the nervous system which can present as paralysis and sensory disturbances, and, rarely, heart problems.32,33

The infection is spread by the bite of infected ticks. Many species of mammals can be infected, and deer act as an important source of infection. There is no person-to-person transmission.

Geographical distribution32,33
Lyme disease occurs in forested areas in Asia , Europe (northwestern, central and eastern) and United States (northeastern and upper midwest states). The disease usually has its onset in summer.

Risk for travellers32
Generally low. Visitors to rural areas in endemic regions, particularly campers and hikers, are at risk.

Precautions and prevention32,33

  • No vaccine is available in Australia .
  • Avoid tick-infested areas and exposure to ticks. If a bite occurs, remove the tick as soon as possible. Please follow precautions under Insect avoidance.

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