Ticks and the incidence of Lyme Disease
Results of [various] studies suggest that the number of people diagnosed with Lyme disease each year in the United States is around 300,000. Notably, these estimates do not affect our understanding of the geographic distribution of Lyme disease. Lyme disease cases are concentrated in the Northeast and upper Midwest, with 14 states [including NY] accounting for over 96% of cases reported to CDC.
Note that in St. Lawrence County, NY with a population of 110,000 people, there are generally only 30+ cases of Lyme reported each year. As per the CDC link provided above, perhaps as many as ten times more cases are not reported officially. In 2014, 3512 cases were reported in all of NY State. Prior to 2002 there were few, if any, cases reported in St. Lawrence County.
The more time spent in environments favored by ticks (grassy and shrubby areas, trails in woods frequented by deer especially, and the edge of the woods or overgrown lands) the higher the likelhood of encountering them. There are reports that ticks can come into the home on firewood as well.
"DIY" TICK PROTECTION
Tick season comes with warmer weather, so prepare yourself when going into grasses and woods.
Wear light colored clothing to be able to spot them (deer ticks can be almost microscopic, you must really inspect!)
IMPORTANT: Tuck your pants into your socks and tuck your shirt into your pants to avoid easy entry. Wear long sleeves and long pants.
Ticks tend to "quest" for a suitable host (you or our pets) at the tips of grasses and brush and also have a strong tendancy to climb upwards seeking a feeding spot. They can also drop from above, according to some sources.
Do a full body examination when you return home, before showering. Deer ticks in particular can be as tiny as the head of a fine point pen (see the four ticks pictured on the dime above.)
Remove the tick with a tweezer placed tight to your skin; pull straight out, no twisting. Try to not squeeze the contents of the tick into your body (grasp as close to the skin as you can, on the mouth parts) and don't kill the tick if possible.
Save the tick in a sealed container if you identify it as a deer tick (the lyme vector.) Deer ticks have a distinguishing longer mouth part than most other ticks in the Northeast. Without evidence it can be difficult to obtain treatment, or may subject you to unneccesary treatment. Place the tick in a small section of barely damp paper towel and seal it in a plastic zip-lock bag, be sure to date it, and keep it in the refrigerator.
Note that a tick can only transmit the disease if they've been attached to your body for at least 24-36 hours because your blood needs time to activate the bacteria and then work its way through your system. If the tick is not engorged, it has likely not been on you long but check with experts anyway.
You can contact the St. Lawrence County Public Health Department at 386-2325 or visit www.co.st-lawrence.ny.us/Departments/PublicHealth/LymeDisease_WestNileVirus.
Early stages of Lyme disease are usually marked by one or more of the following symptoms: 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. You may not show all symptoms.
Use a repellent. DEET is a harmful chemical, and should not be applied directly to the skin - apply to clothing. Many mosquito repellents will not deter ticks, check the label.
You can also use homemade repellents, as below, though they may be less effective. These can be applied to the skin and hair as well as clothing, but check to see if it stains the fabric, if you care.
Carefully check your animals when they come in the house, because your pets can get ill too - or transfer the tick to a place where you can pick it up.
Pictured above: Four stages of deer ticks.
Tick repellent for your pets:
For pets, add 1 cup of water to a spray bottle, followed by 2 cups of distilled white vinegar. Ticks hate the smell and taste of vinegar, and will be easily be repelled by this ingredient alone. Then, add two spoonfuls of vegetable or almond oil, which both contain sulfur (another natural tick repellent).
To make a repellent that will also deter fleas, mix in a few spoonfuls of lemon juice, citrus oil, or peppermint oil, any of which will repel ticks and fleas while also creating a nicely scented repellent. Spray onto the pet's dry coat, staying away from sensitive areas including eyes, nose, mouth, and genitals. When outdoors for an extended period, spray this solution on two to three times per day.
For you and your family:
In a spray bottle, mix 2 cups of distilled white vinegar and 1 cup of water. To make a scented solution so you do not smell like bitter vinegar all day, add 20 drops of your favorite essential oil.
Eucalyptus oil is a calm, soothing scent that also works as a tick repellent, while peppermint and citrus oils give off a strong crisp scent that also repel ticks.
After mixing the solution, spray onto clothing, skin, and hair before going outdoors. Reapply every four hours to keep ticks at bay, and examine your skin and hair when back inside to make sure no ticks are on the body.
Recipe Source: FB Page of Nan Swope
For More Information:
Identification of various ticks and much good information.
Be Tick Free - A Guide for Preventing Lyme Disease
New York State Department of Health
Lyme Disease (tick-borne borreliosis, Lyme arthritis)
New York State Department of Health Communicable Disease Fact Sheet
St. Lawrence County Information
What Are Your Actual Chances of Getting Lyme Disease?
This post provided as a community service by the LLV.
It is not intended to provide or substitute for medical advice; only to provide prevention measures.
Consult your family care practice if you have any health concerns.
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