The first victim was found dead in his car after it had veered off the road late in 2012 in Massachusetts. Since the victim was an organ donor, a pathologist working to harvest organs discovered the telltale inflammation around his heart.
Just six months later, two more carditis victims, one from New york and one from Connecticut, died after collapsing suddenly, unexpectedly.
Did the victims, all between 26 and 38 years old, even know they had Lyme disease? Apparently not, as none of them had been diagnosed or treated for it before their untimely deaths.
While the CDC assures that deadly carditis cases resulting from Lyme Disease are rare, you should take precautions, such as:
- Learn to recognize the symptoms of Lyme disease.
- Follow recommended safety procedures when recreating or working outdoors in areas that may have ticks.
- Contact your physician if you think that you or a loved one has received a tick bite or has symptoms of Lyme disease.
Lyme disease fact sheet
- Lyme disease is passed to humans by the bite of black-legged ticks (also known as deer ticks) and western black-legged ticks infected with the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi.
- The Lyme disease bacterium normally lives in mice, squirrels, and other small mammals, but one of the three recent victims is believed to have contracted his Lyme disease from his pet dog, known to have ticks.
- Lyme disease is the most commonly reported tick-borne disease in the United States.
- In 2010, more than 22,500 confirmed and 7,500 cases of Lyme disease were reported to the CDC.
- About one percent of Lyme disease sufferers develop carditis.
- Carditus is usually treatable with antibiotics.
- Outdoor workers are at risk of Lyme disease if they work at sites with infected ticks. U.S. workers in the northeastern and north-central States are at highest risk of exposure to infected ticks.
- Lyme disease is known to be particularly problematic in specific areas of the U.S., as the CDC map below shows:
How to protect yourself from ticks and Lyme disease
- Wear a hat and light-colored clothing, including long-sleeved shirts and long pants tucked into boots or socks.
- Use insect repellents containing 20-to-30 percent DEET on your skin or clothing.
- Use insecticides such as Permethrin (only on clothes, not skin) for greater protection. One application of permethrin to pants, socks, and shoes typically stays effective through several washings.
- Check your skin and clothes for ticks. The young ticks are very small and may be hard to see. Particularly check your hair, underarms, and groin for ticks, and immediately remove them from your body using fine-tipped tweezers, grasping the tick firmly and as close to your skin as possible, and then pulling the tick's body away from your skin with a steady motion. Wash the infected area with soap and water.
- Wash and dry potentially exposed clothes in a hot dryer to kill any attached ticks.
- An expanding circular rash that may look like a red bulls-eye at the site of the tick bite.
- Joint and muscle pains
- Swollen lymph nodes
Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics, if treatment is started early. However, some victims may have lasting symptoms such as arthritis, muscle and joint pain, or fatigue.
Lyme disease and pregnant womenIf you get Lyme disease while pregnant, it can lead to infection of the placenta and possible stillbirth. However, no negative effects on the fetus have been found when the mother receives appropriate antibiotic treatment.
There are no reports of Lyme disease transmission from breast milk.
Learn more about Lyme disease and carditis
- CDC December 2013 alert – Three Sudden Cardiac Deaths Associated with Lyme Carditis
- CDC Lyme disease diagnosis and treatment
- PDF CDC Fact Sheet for pregnant women
- NIOSH Fast Facts Card: Protecting Yourself from Ticks and Mosquitoes
- CDC’s Tick-borne Diseases website