Oswego County Residents Should be Aware of Lyme Disease Symptoms

<br /><i>Ixodes dammini</i>, otherwise known as the Deer Tick, a carrier of Lyme Disease.
Ixodes dammini, otherwise known as the Deer Tick, a carrier of Lyme Disease.

With summer in full swing, pet owners and those who like to spend time outdoors should be on the lookout for ticks and be aware of the symptoms of Lyme disease, according to Oswego County Public Health Director Dr. Dennis Norfleet.

“Lyme disease is spread by the bite of infected deer ticks,” said Dr. Norfleet. “Deer ticks cannot fly or jump. They like to rest on low-lying vegetation and attach to a passing animal or person. Once on a body, ticks often attach to the more hidden areas such as the groin, armpits and scalp.”

Deer ticks are found in Oswego County. Campers, hikers, outdoor workers and others who frequent wooded and tall grassy areas are more likely to be exposed to ticks. The risk of exposure to ticks is greatest along trails in the woods and on the edges of properties with tall vegetation, but ticks may also be carried by animals and pets into lawns and gardens.

Early stages of Lyme disease are usually marked by one or more of the following symptoms and signs: fatigue, chills and fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, swollen lymph nodes, and/or a “bull’s eye” red rash appearing on the skin at the site of the bite.

Lyme disease is often difficult to diagnose, because its symptoms and signs mimic
those of many other diseases. Left untreated, Lyme disease can produce severe arthritis or cause neurological or cardiac problems. However, with early detection and treatment with antibiotics, recovery from Lyme disease is usually rapid and complete.

“Domestic animals, such as dogs and outdoor cats, may become infected with Lyme disease bacteria, and some of these animals may develop arthritis,” said Dr. Norfleet.

Dogs appear to be more at risk from Lyme disease. Symptoms in dogs include lethargy, joint pain, fever, fatigue and kidney damage. While there is debate about whether cats suffer from Lyme disease, cats are thought to be highly resistant to the disease.

You can decrease your chances of being bitten by a tick by following a few precautions:

· When in wooded and grassy areas which are likely to be tick-infested, wear light-colored clothing (to spot ticks) and tuck pants into socks and shirt into pants.
· After every two to three hours outdoors, check for ticks on clothing or skin. Brush off any ticks on clothing before they can attach to your skin. Also, check your children and pets for ticks.
· Do a thorough tick-check of your entire body at the end of the day. Pay particular attention to the back of the knees, behind the ears, the scalp, the armpits and your back.
· If you decide to use tick repellent, apply carefully following label directions.
· Children may be at greater risk for reactions to repellents, in part because their exposure may be greater. Do not apply repellents directly to children. Apply to your own hands and then put it on the child. Never apply to the hands of small children.
· No one should apply repellents near eyes, nose or mouth. Also, use it sparingly around ears.

If ticks are found, they should be removed immediately. Use fine-tipped tweezers to carefully grasp the mouth-parts of the tick close to the skin, and then gently and steadily pull the tick out without twisting or squeezing.

After removing the tick, wash the bite area thoroughly, apply antiseptic, and mark the area to watch for symptoms. Dr. Norfleet reminds people that gasoline, kerosene, petroleum jelly or hot matches should never be used to remove ticks.

The Oswego County Health Department provides tick identification through the New York State Department of Health. The tick is not tested for Lyme disease. It is checked for “degree of engorgement,” which indicates the likelihood of the tick being attached long enough to transmit a disease agent to the host. Those interested in having a tick identified may bring it to the health department’s environmental office at 70 Bunner St., Oswego. The tick will be sent to the state health department laboratory for identification, and the health department will provide a printed copy of the results.

For more information about Lyme disease, call the Oswego County Health Department at 349-3564 or visit the New York State Department of Health Web site at http://www.health.state.ny.us/diseases/communicable/lyme/fact_sheet.htm