With the Summer Season approaching and an increase in outdoor activities such as camping, hiking and leisurely walks in wooded areas it is important that students and their families familiarize themselves with basic information about Lyme Disease. Some of the basic information you will need to know includes the signs and symptoms of Lyme Disease, Tick removal, and testing and the appropriate steps to take to prevent Tick bites.
BASIC FACTS ABOUT LYME DISEASE
● Lyme Disease is one of the most common tick-borne illnesses with 30,000 cases reported annually. It is heavily concentrated in New England and the Upper Midwest.
● Lyme Disease is transmitted in the Northeast and Upper Midwestern U.S. by the Ixodes scapularis tick and is caused by a spirochete.
● Lyme Disease was the most commonly reported vector-borne disease in 2015.
● Children make up the greatest proportion of Lyme Disease cases. CDC data compiled from 2001-2017 indicates children ages 5-15 are at greater risk of getting Lyme.
(CDC – Lyme Disease Charts and Figures: Historical Data, 2017)
What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is caused by bacteria transmitted by the deer tick (Ixodes scapularis). Lyme disease may cause symptoms affecting the skin, nervous system, heart and/or joints of an individual. More than 100,000 cases have been reported to the New York State Department of Health since the documentation on Lyme disease began in 1986.
Who gets Lyme disease?
Lyme disease can affect people of any age. People who spend time in grassy and wooded environments are at an increased risk of exposure. The chances of being bitten by a deer tick are greater during times of the year when ticks are most active. Young deer ticks, called nymphs, are active from mid-May to mid-August and are about the size of poppy seeds. Adult ticks, which are approximately the size of sesame seeds, are most active from March to mid-May and from mid-August to November. Both nymphs and adults can transmit Lyme disease. Ticks can be active any time the temperature is above freezing. Infected deer ticks can be found throughout New York State.
How is Lyme disease transmitted?
Not all deer ticks are infected with the bacteria that cause Lyme disease. Ticks can become infected if they feed on small animals that are infected. The disease can be spread when an infected tick bites a person and stays attached for a period of time. In most cases, the tick must be attached for 36 hours or more before the bacteria can be transmitted. Lyme disease does not spread from one person to another. Transfer of the bacteria from an infected pregnant woman to the fetus is extremely rare.
What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?
The early symptoms of Lyme disease may be mild and easily missed. If you find a tick attached to your skin, remove the tick with tweezers), and watch for the symptoms of Lyme disease. In 60-80% of cases the first symptom is a rash, known as erythema migrans, that:
● Occurs at or near the site of the tick bite.
● Is a “bulls-eye” circular patch or solid red patch that grows larger.
● Appears between three days and one month after the tick bite.
● Has a diameter of two to six inches.
● Lasts for about three to five weeks.
● May or may not be warm to the touch.
● Is usually not painful or itchy.
● Sometimes leads to multiple rashes.
Ticks will attach themselves anywhere including the thighs, groin, trunk, armpits and behind the ears. If you are infected, the rash may be found in one of these areas.
When do symptoms appear?
Early symptoms usually appear within three to 30 days after the bite of an infected tick.
What can I do to prevent Lyme disease?
Deer ticks live in shady, moist areas at ground level. They will cling to tall grass, brush and shrubs, usually no more than 18-24 inches off the ground. They also live in lawns and gardens, especially at the edges of woods and around old stone walls. Deer ticks cannot jump or fly, and do not drop onto passing people or animals. They get on humans and animals only by direct contact. Once a tick gets on the skin, it generally climbs upward until it reaches a protected area.
In tick-infested areas, your best protection is to avoid contact with soil, leaf litter and vegetation. However, if you garden, hike, camp, hunt, work, or otherwise spend time in the outdoors, you can still protect yourself:
● Wear light-colored clothing with a tight weave to spot ticks easily.
● Wear enclosed shoes, long pants, and a long-sleeved shirt. Tuck pant legs into socks or boots and shirt into pants.
● Check clothes and any exposed skin frequently for ticks while outdoors and check again once indoors.
● Consider using insect repellent. Follow label directions.
● Stay on cleared, well-traveled trails. Avoid contacting vegetation.
● Avoid sitting directly on the ground or on stone walls.
● Keep long hair tied back, especially when gardening
What About Insect Repellent?
Consider using EPA-registered insect repellents:
● DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide) can be applied to exposed skin. Products that contain 20% or more DEET can provide protection that lasts up to several hours. Use the lowest concentration of DEET that you will need for the length of time you will be outdoors.
● Picaridin is a colorless, nearly odorless ingredient that can be applied to exposed skin in a range of 5 to 20% of the active ingredient.
● Permethrin: Clothes, shoes and camping gear can be treated or purchased pretreated with permethrin. Its protection can last through many washes. Never apply permethrin to skin.
The New York State Health Department recommends taking these precautions when using repellents that contain these active ingredients:
● Store out of the reach of children and read all instructions on the label before applying.
● Do NOT allow children to apply repellents themselves.
● Do NOT apply repellents directly to children. Apply to your own hands and then put it on the child.
● When applying repellents, avoid the child’s face and hands.
● Do NOT apply repellents on skin damaged by sunburn, cuts, bruises or other conditions, such as psoriasis.
● Avoid prolonged and excessive use of repellents.
● Do NOT apply repellents in enclosed areas.
● Do NOT apply directly on your face.
● Do NOT apply near eyes, nose or mouth.
● Wash treated skin and clothing after returning indoors.
● If you believe you or a child is having an adverse reaction to a repellent, wash the treated area immediately and contact your local health care provider or local poison control center.
● Steps to prevent Lyme disease include using insect repellent, removing ticks promptly, applying pesticides, and reducing tick habitat. The ticks that transmit Lyme disease can occasionally transmit other tickborne diseases as well.
(This information is from the NYS Department of Health website.)
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ABOUT LYME DISEASE
CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Tick Tock: Adventures of a Not So Super Villain. Animated video for children about Lyme
Disease from the BC Centre for Disease Control.
New York State Department of Health – Lyme Disease and Other Diseases Carried by Ticks
Spray, Tuck, Zip! 2011 Contest Winner
We wish you a safe, healthy and happy summer!
The BFS Health Department