LYME, TICK & VECTOR BORNE DISEASES

Vector Borne Diseases are infectious diseases, usually spread by insects such as ticks, mosquitoes and fleas. They include diseases such as Malaria, Dengue Fever, Ross River Fever, West Nile disease, Barmah Forest Virus, Kunjin virus, Murray Valley encephalitis (MVE) and Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is an illness caused by the bacterium known as Borrelia. The Borrelia bacteria is usually transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected vector (carrier) and most commonly thought to come from a tick. People with Lyme disease are frequently diagnosed with other infections (called co-infections) such as Babesia, Bartonella, Rickettsia, Mycoplasma and Ehrlichia. Lyme disease can affect many parts of the body. Symptoms can also present randomly throughout the body and often involves muscles, joints, organs, the brain and the gastro-intestinal and neurological systems. Lyme is often referred to as ‘the great imitator’ because it can present similarly to Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Motor Neurone disease, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Guillian-Barre Syndrome, Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, Autism, Lupus and Alzheimer’s disease.


A bull’s eye rash (called Erythema Migrans) at the bite site is one of the most common ways to diagnose Lyme disease but, it is important to remember that this is not reported to occur for all cases. Lyme disease is typically categorised into early and late stage conditions. Early stage symptoms usually occur close to the time of the bite and can include: flu-like symptoms, headaches, fever, swollen lymph nodes, fatigue, muscle aches and joint pain. Whereas symptoms in late stage Lyme, can present many months or even years following a bite. It’s at this stage that Lyme commonly manifests as a multi-systemic illness and can be mild, moderate or severe. If left untreated, it may cause severe disability and, in some cases, it may be fatal. Infections have been reported in all states and territories of Australia from both suburban and country areas.

If you would like to read more about Lyme disease, here is a link to a comprehensive information pack (Several common topics are covered here that you can select from): http://www.lymedisease.org.au/media/

You can visit the website for the Lyme Disease Association of Australia here: http://www.lymedisease.org.au/

Here is a link to an easy to watch video about Lyme disease: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tX70ivbRyJ4

If you have questions or need support, you can email the Lyme Disease Association at: info@lymedisease.org.au

Some other Vector Borne diseases

Ross River Fever is an arbovirus (anthropod-borne virus) spread by infected mosquitoes. It is diagnosed with blood tests, usually two weeks apart, which detect the level of antibodies in the blood.
While most infected people never develop symptoms, sometimes it results flu-like symptoms, swollen joints, a rash on the trunk, arms or legs (usually lasting 7-10 days) and/or tiredness and weakness. These symptoms typically emerge 7-10 days after being bitten.

Most people make a full recovery in 2-3 weeks, however in some cases the joint pain and tiredness continues for many months. There is no specific treatment, but medication may ease the symptoms.

Again, the majority of people infected with the Barmah Forest Virus do not experience any symptoms. However, those that do, usually notice them 7-10 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. These symptoms include: fever, chills, headache, muscle pain, joint swelling and stiffness, a rash on the trunk, arms or legs (usually lasting 7-10 days) and/or tiredness and weakness.

Most people make a full recovery in 2-3 weeks, however in some cases the joint pain and tiredness continues for many months. There is no specific treatment, but medication, such as anti-inflammatories, may ease the symptoms.

Barmah Forest Virus is diagnosed by blood tests taken two weeks apart to compare antibody levels.

Kunjin virus is a flavivirus (a group B arbovirus) spread by certain mosquitoes. Again, the majority of people bitten show no symptoms, but a small number develop a mild illness characterised by a fever, rash, headache, swollen and aching joints, muscle weakness and fatigue. Sometimes people develop the severe brain infection encephalitis which requires hospital treatment.

Blood tests can detect the Kunjin virus antibodies.

Murray Valley encephalitis (MVE) is spread by infected mosquitoes and causes no symptoms in most people. However, sometimes is causes fever, headache, diarrhoea, nausea, appetite loss and muscle aches. Rarely it causes the severe brain infection encephalitis which requires hospital treatment. The symptoms of encephalitis include: severe headache; neck stiffness; sensitivity to bright lights; drowsiness and confusion. Occasionally it leads to permanent neurological complications.

Blood tests comparing the levels of MVE antibodies are used to diagnose it.