In this stage, bacteria (Borrelia burgdorferi) infect jointtissue, causing arthritis, or infect cardiac muscles, weakeningtissue around the heart. “If Lyme disease damages the brain, the patient may nevercompletely recover, even with treatment,” Hinkle said.”Infections that have spread to the central nervous system aredifficult to treat, because antibiotics cannot penetrate theblood brain barrier.” “The arthritis will appear only in one side of the body, eitherthe left or right elbow or knee,” Hinkle said. “It’s notsymmetrical like most other cases of arthritis.” In some cases the bacteria will attack the central nervoussystem, causing brain damage, memory loss, dementia ordepression.Treatable at all stagesDoctors can treat Lyme disease in all stages, giving this diseasea low fatality rate. Mosquitoes and West Nile virus are the hot topics of late, butdon’t forget to guard against ticks to prevent Lyme disease.”While not known to kill anyone, Lyme disease can be a seriousthreat to your health,” said Nancy Hinkle, an Extensionentomologist with the University of Georgia College ofAgricultural and Environmental Sciences. “It can make you veryill, even chronically ill.”First noted in ConnecticutLyme disease was first discovered in 1977 when arthritis wasobserved in a group of children in and around Lyme, Conn., Hinklesaid.”Connecticut and New York remain the most common places to reportthe disease, with thousands of cases occurring each year,” shesaid. “The disease is still extremely rare in the West and in theSouth.””It didn’t appear in Georgia until the late ’80s and still isn’ta threat to many people,” she said.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports only 434cases of Lyme disease in Georgia since 1990. The disease istransmitted through Ixodes scapularis tick bites in the South.Different ticks are associated with the disease in other areas ofthe United States.Carrier is smaller than mostIxodes scapularis ticks are not easily identifiable. They’resmaller than any other ticks found in the Southeast.”They’re commonly mistaken for the Lone Star tick, which is alsoa small tick,” Hinkle said. “But Lone Star ticks have a whitespot on their back.” These ticks are less significant diseasevectors.If a tick has bitten you, watch the site for symptoms of Lymedisease.Watch for a bull’s-eye”The first sign is a bull’s-eye rash that forms on the skin nearthe infected bite,” Hinkle said. “The rash is concentric circlesof alternate red and white rings, giving it the appearance of abull’s eye.”The rash can form days or even weeks after you’re infected. “It will go away in a few days, and the person will feel fine andforget about it,” she said. “Then the second stage begins. Thiscan happen months or even years later.” “If intercepted early, while in the bulls-eye stage, antibioticscan be taken by mouth to treat the symptoms and stop thebacterial infection from spreading,” Hinkle said.If caught in stage two, antibiotics must be given intravenously,and a hospital stay is required.