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New Jerseyans Alerted For Lyme Disease Symptoms

Armen Hareyan's picture

Ticks that transmit Lyme disease are most active in June and July so Health and Senior Services Commissioner Heather Howard recommends that New Jersey residents spending time outdoors be alert for the signs and symptoms of this tick-borne disease and take preventive measures.

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection spread through a bite of an infected deer tick.

First discovered in Lyme, Connecticut in 1975, it is the most frequently reported tick-borne disease in the U.S.

New Jersey has the nation's third highest number of Lyme disease cases reported to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with an average of 2,665 cases confirmed annually. Lyme disease is found throughout New Jersey's 21 counties.

To protect themselves from tick bites, people should avoid tick-infested areas such as tall grass and dense vegetation; keep grass cut and underbrush thinned in yards and follow directions carefully if chemicals are used for tick control.

People should also wear protective clothing such as solid, light-colored clothing to help spot ticks. Tucking pants into socks also will help prevent a tick from attaching to your skin. Use of insect repellent--for people and pets--is also recommended, along with a full-body exam after leaving tick habitat.

"Reducing exposure to ticks is the best way to protect yourself and your family against Lyme disease,'' said Health and Senior Services Commissioner Heather Howard. "As children spend more time outdoors and the summer camp season approaches, it is important for parents and camp counselors to remember to perform daily "tick checks" on their children and themselves.''

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One to two weeks after being infected, a "bull's-eye" rash can develop at the tick bite site accompanied by flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, and muscle or joint pain. The disease can be treated with antibiotics if caught early and antibiotic therapy for three to four weeks is generally effective. However, left untreated cases can lead to musculoskeletal, neurological and cardiac problems.

In recognition of the need to raise awareness and understanding of methods for prevention and control of Lyme disease, the Governor Jon Corzine issued a Proclamation declaring May Lyme Disease Awareness Month.

Anyone who is bitten by a tick carrying the bacteria can get Lyme disease. It is important to properly remove a tick from the skin within 48 hours of being bitten in order to reduce the risk of disease transmission.

To safely remove a tick if you are bitten:

o Use fine-pointed tweezers:

o Grasp the tick's mouth parts close to the skin.

o Apply steady outward pressure.

o Do not use petroleum jelly, noxious chemicals, or hot objects to remove ticks. Improper removal can increase the chances of infection.

In nature, the Lyme disease bacteria exist in a life cycle involving ticks, small animals and deer. Deer ticks live in dense woods with leaf litter, a thick undergrowth of shrubs and small trees. Immature ticks, most active spring and early summer, are typically found low to the ground. They are spread in the wild by animals such as birds, mice, raccoons and deer, but domestic animals such as cats, dogs, horses and cows can also carry infected ticks closer to, and even into the home.