Beware Of Ticks, It's Lyme Time

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While everyone is susceptible to tick bites, campers, hikers, and people who work in gardening and in other leafy outdoor venues are at the greatest risk of being bitten. Lyme disease is an infection caused by the bite of an infected female deer tick.

Lyme disease was first recognized in Lyme, Connecticut in 1975. It is transmitted by a group of closely related species of ticks known as Ixodes. Ticks in this group—deer ticks, western black-legged ticks, and black-legged ticks—are much smaller than the common dog or cattle ticks, and attach to any part of the body, often areas such as the groin, armpits, and scalp.

Leslie Terjesen, Ocean County Health Department Public Information Officer stated, “Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported a total of 35,902 cases in New Jersey. The overwhelming majority of cases are reported in the summer months when ticks are most active and people spend more time outdoors.

Lyme disease can cause fever, headaches, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes and a characteristic skin rash, sometimes called a bulls-eye rash. A bulls-eye rash is an early-stage symptom and usually appears at the site of the tick bite within 3 to 30 days. Not everyone gets this rash so it may go unnoticed. Left untreated, the infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system. Permanent damage to the joints or the nervous system can develop in patients with late Lyme disease. It is rarely, if ever, fatal. According to CDC, patients treated with antibiotics in the early stages of the infection usually recover rapidly and completely.

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Freeholder Gerry P. Little, liaison to the Ocean County Health Department, stated, “As the summer months approach, it is time to take precautions against Lyme disease. It is important to educate yourself about Lyme disease and try to avoid concentrated tick areas to avoid getting bitten.” He suggested the following precautions to be taken to protect yourself from ticks:

Avoid wooded, brushy, and grassy areas in the summer months; keep high grass mowed.

* Wear light-colored clothing to spot ticks.
* Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts.
* Tie long hair back and wear a hat.
* Tuck pant legs into socks or shoes, and tuck shirts into pants.
* Spray insect repellent containing DEET on clothes and exposed skin other than the face, or treat clothes with permethrin, which kills ticks on contact.
* Walk in the center of trails to avoid brush and grass.
* Remove your clothing, and wash and dry them at high temperatures after being outdoors.
* Do a careful body check for ticks after outdoor activities.

Terjesen pointed out that proper tick removal is essential. Using tweezers, grasp the tick close to the skin, pull straight back, and avoid crushing the tick's body. Do not twist the tick in removing it; parts of the tick might remain in the skin. Save the tick for possible identification by a doctor.

Household pets can get Lyme disease, too. Typical symptoms in animals include joint soreness and lameness, fever, and loss of appetite. Regularly checking pets for all types of ticks reduces the risk of infection for both pet and owner. Preventing tick exposure with topical and/or collar products is very important in preventing Lyme disease in dogs.

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