Lyme Disease: When Ticks Bite Celebrities – Or You

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Superstar vocalist Justin Bieber announced to his Instagram followers that he’s been diagnosed with Lyme disease – adding that he also has been dealing with a chronic case of mononucleosis.

Matthew Bauer, DO, infectious disease specialist with Middletown Infectious Disease Associates, leveled with Premier Health Now that he’s not a Belieber. Particularly when it comes to the pop star using the word “incurable” in his Instagram post ("It's been a rough couple years but getting the right treatment that will help treat this so far incurable disease….”).

Lyme disease, caused by bacteria carried by the black-legged deer tick, is highly curable when diagnosed and treated early, Dr. Bauer told us.  

“For the most part, Lyme is curable with a two- to four-week course of oral antibiotics, depending on the severity of the infection. So, I don’t think that’s an entirely accurate statement that he put out there.”

He adds, however, that Lyme disease can bring complications when it goes untreated for a period of time after an infected tick bite. Complications may include joint and nerve pain and other neurological issues. (Another celebrity, Yolanda Hadid former star of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, recently reported that she is recovering from lingering effects of Lyme disease diagnosed seven years ago. Her daughter supermodel Bella Hadid and son Anwar Hadid also have the disease.)

Long-term Effects

“There is a phenomenon, called post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS), where patients, even if they’ve been treated, have symptoms that can linger on for months, even years, after treatment,” Dr. Bauer says. 

Although early, short-term treatment with antibiotics can prevent the long-term effects, long-term antibiotic use is not effective in treating the lingering symptoms of PTLDS, he adds. That’s because the original infection that caused Lyme disease is no longer present. 

“It’s still not known why people develop these long-term symptoms. It’s felt that it could be an autoimmune reaction – the body’s reaction to the infection, when the immune system turns on itself and causes these issues.”

How To Catch Lyme Disease Early

The real catch to reducing the health risks of Lyme disease, Dr. Bauer says, is discovering soon after a tick bites that you’ve been bitten. And then carefully removing the tick from your skin, using tweezers to make sure you detach the entire bug, including head and mouth parts.   

“If the tick stays in up to 48 hours, that’s when the risk of transmission of Lyme disease becomes the greatest,” he warns. 

Do your best to avoid ticks outdoors and check yourself for them immediately after being outdoors.

Ticks are most active from spring through fall. Wintertime tick bites are rare in Ohio, “unless you’re exposed to a lot of wildlife, like through occupation or hunting,” Dr. Bauer says.

Also, be aware of the symptoms of Lyme disease:

  • “A bulls-eye-looking rash that develops, that’s the hallmark of the initial infection,” Dr. Bauer says.
  • A fever
  • A headache
  • Body aches
  • A stiff neck
  • Fatigue

And, he advises, see a primary care doctor, especially if you develop a rash or have any concern. “A simple blood test can detect the infection.”

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Matthew D. Bauer, DO

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