A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that Lyme disease is 10 times more common than previously reported, affecting as many as 300,000 Americans each year.

“Lyme disease is an infection you get from the bite of a deer tick,” says Dr. Terry Jodrie, emergency room physician at Washington Adventist Hospital.  “Common symptoms may include fever, chills, muscle aches and a round, red rash.”

Previous reports underestimated the illness, reporting only 20,000 to 30,000 cases a year. In order to present a more accurate figure, the CDC’s new comprehensive study surveyed seven national laboratories, conducted a national patient survey and reviewed insurance information.

The statistics are certainly startling, but the good news is, there are ways to help arm yourself against the disease.

Remember to take preventive measures when spending time outdoors:

  • Cover up as much of your skin as possible while in wooded or grassy areas.
  • Wear light-colored clothing that can help you spot a tick more easily.
  • Use bug repellent with chemicals such as DEET, IR3535, or picaridin, which help keep away ticks.
  • Check your pets for ticks after they’ve been outside.

If you or a loved one suspect you have Lyme disease, see a physician immediately.

“It can be a very bad disease if not taken care of early,” explains Dr. Jodrie.

If left untreated, the disease can progress to problems with your joints, nervous system, skin and heart.

The main treatment for Lyme disease is antibiotics, which can help cure the disease within about three weeks of starting treatment.

Get more tips on how to protect yourself from Lyme disease in our Health Library, here.

Listen here here to hear our very own Dr. Terry Jodrie offer expert tips to WTOP, on how to prevent and treat Lyme disease.