Lyme disease is the most commonly reported tick-borne illness in the U.S. Depending on the stage of infection, it can cause a wide range of symptoms, ranging from a fever and rash to neurological problems. Lyme disease also affects dogs. You can schedule a visit to a veterinarian to get your pup vaccinated against the disease.
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"You can protect your dog in the U.S. against Lyme disease, but you can’t protect you or your children with a vaccine," says Dr. Gregory Poland, director of the Mayo Clinic Vaccine Research Group. He says there was a vaccine for humans, but it was withdrawn.
"The primary reason is there was immense anti-vaccine sentiment about the vaccine, much like we had with measles vaccine. It's illogical."
It’s the bite of an infected black-legged tick or deer tick that’s responsible for making so many people sick with Lyme disease. "There are probably about 300,000 new cases a year," says Dr. Poland.
There are no plans at this time for a new Lyme vaccine in the U.S., but there is good news. A vaccine, VLA15, is being developed in Europe.
The company has been through phase 2 testing. "Now they’ll do phase 3 clinical testing, which means they go to the FDA, get approval, and they’ll do very large studies," says Dr. Poland.
Dr. Poland says it might take five years or more before a Lyme disease vaccine is ready for humans. Until then, it’s important to be tick smart. Avoid areas where ticks live, remove ticks right away and contact your health care provider if one has been on your skin for more than 24 hours.