On August 18, 2020

Robust tick season collides with Covid and the Flu

RUTLAND — “My colleagues who work  in the emergency department have been doing Covid and Lyme disease testing side by side,” said Dr. Lisa Graves-Austin. “We are seeing more positives for Lyme disease than Covid.”

Lyme disease is quite prevalent in Vermont this year, said Graves-Austin, an internal medicine specialist at Community Health Rutland. She recommends that the number one thing to do, if there is ever any question, is contact your health care provider.

“Often time with ticks you will have symptoms without any tick being seen and the rash can appear days before the fever,” she said.

Lyme disease symptoms can present in many different ways and some of the symptoms are similar to Covid-19 and flu symptoms. For Lyme disease there can be joint pain, rash, fever, fatigue and sometimes lymph node enlargement. Fever and fatigue are also symptoms of flu and Covid-19.

The test for Lyme disease is a simple blood test.

“If you have the classic rash, a target shape rash on the body, we’ll just go ahead and treat you with an antibiotic and not necessarily wait for the test results. Lyme disease testing usually takes about 24-48 hours for the results to come back,” Graves-Austin said.

Testing for the flu has become very accessible and the results come back in minutes. Currently, it takes a minimum of three to four days for Covid-19 test results to come back.

Still, one of the best ways to prevent getting the flu to begin with is to get a flu shot. Otherwise, it’s going to be very difficult to differentiate between these illnesses because they can present very similarly, she said. Community Health recommends that everybody get a flu vaccine as soon as it’s available which typically is in late September or early October.

“Everyone needs to go out and get the flu shot when the vaccine is available so we can get as many people vaccinated as possible,” Graves-Austin said.

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