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LYME DISEASE FACT SHEET: 
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TO PROTECT
 YOU AND YOUR FAMILY FROM THIS THREAT..

This year, the potential for Lyme Disease and other tick-borne illnesses to reach problematic levels in Rensselaer County is very high. Ticks may carry several different diseases including: Lyme Disease, Ehrlichiosis, Babesiosis, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne illness in Rensselaer County. Health experts attribute the rise in Lyme-disease reported cases to several causes, including the change in migratory bird paths, an increase in wildlife habitat, and rising deer herd populations. All agree that individuals visiting, working, or recreating in outdoor habitat areas should be aware of the dangers of Lyme disease. Therefore, this fact sheet is being offered by the Rensselaer County Management Council to help you understand more about this serious issue, and to educate you about ways to protect you and your family from the threat of Lyme disease.

WHAT IS LYME DISEASE?

Lyme Disease (LD) is an infection caused by the bite of a deer tick (IXODES SCAPULARIS) that has been infected with the disease. Not all ticks are infected, so a tick bite does not always result in LD. However, when the tick that is carrying the infection (Borrelia burgdorfen) bites a human, it is very important that the person receive medical treatment as soon as possible. LD emerges as a skin rash and can continue to manifest itself in the body involving joints, the nervous system, and/or heart.

It takes 1-2 days for an infected tick to transmit Lyme Disease to a human. That is why it is incredibly important to inspect yourself and youngsters for ticks every 2-3 hours while in the field. A full body check should be done at home, and pets should be checked for ticks on a regular basis.

WHERE and WHEN AM I MOST LIKELY TO PICK UP A TICK?

Deer Ticks are very, very small (sometimes as small as a pencil point!). They cling to vegetation and are most numerous in woods and leaf litter, high grass, weeds, and brush. The two-year life cycle of a tick requires that it feed on three separate hosts through its life, including birds, mice, and deer. The infection that is transmitted by a juvenile tick is usually picked up from an infected animal, most often a mouse. The next stage of a tick’s life is spent attached to vegetation, where it waits to attach itself to a passing human or animal. Thus, the greatest chance of getting infected with Lyme Disease is May through July, but you can be infected in all seasons by an adult tick.

HOW DO I REMOVE A TICK WHEN I SEE IT ON MY SKIN?

When you see a tick embedded in your skin, the mouthparts will be under tissue with the body usually exposed. To remove a tick, use tweezers to firmly grip the tick’s central mouthpart and slowly wiggle it back and forth while pulling gently away. DO NOT SQUEEZE THE BODY OF THE TICK, as this may force infective fluid into the bite wound. After removal, wash the bite area thoroughly and apply antiseptic. SAVE THE TICK in a jar with alcohol or place the jar in your freezer. In the event that symptoms arise, identification and testing of the tick will help your physician in his\her diagnosis.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF LYME DISEASE?

Early Stages- In the early stages, the first symptom usually noticed is a skin rash that occurs at the site of the tick bite. The actual tick may go undetected. The rash, which begins 3 days to one month after the tick bite, begins as a small red area which gradually enlarges, often with a partial clearing in the center of the lesion so that it resembles a donut or bulls-eye. Complaints of burning or itching are common. However, 40% of those with LD may not have the early skin rash, and symptoms may appear only in the later stages of the disease.

Later Stages- Later stage symptoms most often include complications of the joints, the nervous system, and the heart. These typically appear weeks to months after the initial symptoms. Joint complications usually mirror arthritis-like conditions and affect the larger joints such as the knee, elbow, and wrist. Pain and swelling or stiffness can move from joint-to-joint, and can become chronic. The most common neurological symptoms include severe headache and stiff neck, facial paralysis, and weakness and\or pain in the chest or extremities. These symptoms can persist for weeks, often fluctuate in severity, and may respond to intravenous antibiotics. PROMPT DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT IS KEY TO MINIMIZING THE EFFECTS OF THIS DISEASE!!

WHAT IS THE TREATMENT?

Oral antibiotic treatment is beneficial in the early stages of the illness and often prevents late complications. Amoxicillin and doxycycline are the most effective drugs. In children, amoxicillin is preferred. For late-stage complications, high dose intravenous penicillin or ceftriaxone is often effective.

HOW CAN LYME DISEASE BE PREVENTED?

If you and\or your family decide to visit an area that is conducive to deer ticks, there are measures you can take to minimize your exposure to Lyme Disease. These include:

  • Wear a long-sleeved upper garment
  • Wear long pants and high socks, tucking your pants into your socks
  • If possible, wear light-colored garments, as it makes it easier to spot ticks
  • Use a repellant containing low levels of DEET (N, N-diethyltoluamide) on clothing and exposed skin
  • Conduct regular "tick checks". Ticks are most often found on the thigh, groin, arms, underarms, and legs.  Remember that immature ticks are very small. Look for new "freckles"…they might be a tick.

PROPER USE OF DEET

DEET-the chemical N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide- is the most commonly used insect repellant. However, it must be used with caution. While effective in combating mosquitoes, it is a powerful chemical which has been associated with a wide array of adverse reactions. The New York State Department of Health recommends the following precautions:

  • Store DEET containers out of the reach of children;
  • Do not let young children apply DEET to themselves;
  • Do NOT apply DEET directly to children- apply it to your hands and then put it on children with your hands. Use a product with less than 10% DEET on children;
  • Avoid children’s face and hands, and apply sparingly;
  • Do NOT apply indoors or directly to your face;
  • DEET may affect some synthetic fabrics and plastic;
  • Wash all treated skin and clothing after returning from outdoors.

Note: All facts taken from NYSDOH literature and advisory notices. For more information call 270-2888

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