OSWEGO – With the arrival of cooler weather, health officials are reminding people that the risk of Lyme disease continues to be present across New York State. Lyme disease is caused by the bite of an infected deer tick, also known as the black-legged tick. More than 55,000 cases of Lyme disease have been reported in New York State since 2001.
“Deer ticks will remain active through late November and early December. We want people to enjoy the outdoors, but to continue to protect themselves from insect-related illnesses,” said Jiancheng Huang, public health director of the Oswego County Health Department. “People who spend time outdoors during the fall months should check themselves for ticks at the end of the day. In tick-prone areas, any contact with vegetation, even playing in the yard, can result in exposure to ticks.”
Lyme disease can have serious complications if it is not identified and treated early. The most noticeable early sign of Lyme disease is a characteristic rash resembling a bull’s eye or a solid red patch, which usually, but not always, develops between 3 and 30 days after the tick bite. The rash often expands over time and can last for several weeks. In some cases, no rash appears, while in other cases, there are multiple rashes. The rash usually feels warm to the touch, but is rarely itchy or painful.
Other symptoms of early Lyme disease include fever, fatigue, chills, headache, stiff neck, muscle aches and joint pain.
“If you notice these signs or symptoms, consult a health care provider immediately,” said Huang. “Patients treated with antibiotics in the early stage of the infection usually recover rapidly and completely.”
Insect repellents can greatly reduce a person’s risk of Lyme disease. Follow label directions carefully and do not allow children to apply insect repellents themselves.
“One of the most effective ways to avoid Lyme disease is to check your body for ticks at the end of every day,” said Huang. “Ticks can attach to any part of your body, but pay particular attention to the backs of knees, thighs, groin, behind ears, the scalp area, armpits and your back when checking for ticks.”
It is important that a tick be removed as soon as it is discovered. If the tick is removed within 36 hours, the risk of Lyme disease is greatly reduced.
To remove a tick:
Using tweezers, grasp the tick near the mouthparts, as close to the skin as possible.
Be careful not to squeeze, crush or puncture the body of the tick, which may contain infectious fluids.
Pull the tick in a steady, upward motion away from the skin. Ticks attach firmly to the body when they bite. You may feel resistance when pulling out a tick.
Do not attempt to remove ticks by using petroleum jelly, kerosene, lit cigarettes or other home remedies. They may increase the chance of contracting a tick-borne disease.
After removing the tick, thoroughly disinfect the bite site with soap, rubbing alcohol, or hydrogen peroxide. Wash your hands carefully.
“Contact your health care provider if you have any questions about incomplete tick-removal. Record the date and location of the tick bite. If a rash appears or you experience flu-like symptoms, contact your health care provider immediately,” said Huang.
To learn more about Lyme disease, visit the New York State Department of Health Web site at www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/lyme