Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today alerted New Yorkers to take precautions to prevent diseases that are transmitted by ticks as springtime weather arrives throughout the state.
While New Yorkers are out taking advantage of the Spring weather, it is important to ensure safety remains a top priority, Governor Cuomo said. New Yorkers of all ages should take a few moments to educate themselves about the health risks associated with tick bites and take proper precautions to protect themselves from them."
Lyme disease is caused by the bite of an infected deer tick. Ticks are active when the weather stays above freezing, usually from April through November. The time of greatest concern is in late spring and early summer when nymphal ticks are active. In the nymphal stage of life, deer ticks are small (about the size of a poppy seed) and difficult to see. Nymphal deer ticks are responsible for the majority of Lyme disease cases. In tick-infested areas, any contact with vegetation, even playing in a well-manicured yard, can result in exposure to ticks.
While this past winter was unusually harsh, the abundant and long-lasting snow cover likely provided insulation to allow ticks to survive the winter. Deer ticks, carriers of at least four different pathogens, are starting to emerge and will be present for the next several months across the state.
The good news is that Lyme and other tick-borne diseases are preventable by taking simple precautions such as wearing light colored clothing, tucking pants into socks and doing a tick check after being in wooded or grassy areas, State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah, M.D., M.P.H., said.
Lyme and other tick-borne diseases
Lyme disease is caused by bacteria transmitted by infected deer ticks (both nymphs and adults), which are most active when temperatures are above freezing. Lyme disease can affect people of any age.
Since reporting of Lyme disease to DOH began in 1986, more than 100,000 cases have been documented. While there are year-to-year variations, New York State averages more than 5,500 new Lyme diseases cases each year. Individuals who spend time in grassy and wooded environments are at greatest risk of exposure. It is important to do thorough body checks for ticks after playing or working outdoors, paying close attention to armpits, the area behind the knees and ears, the hairline, the waist, and the groin.
Lyme disease is spread when an infected tick bites a person and remains attached for 36 hours or more. In 60-80 percent of cases an expanding rash resembling a bulls eye or solid patch will appear near the site of the bite. If an expanding rash more than two inches apart appears or flu-like symptoms occur over a 30-day period following a tick bite, or if an expanding rash more than two inches across appears, contact your health care provider immediately.
If a tick is found on the body, it is critical to remove it immediately, preferably with fine point tweezers, grasping the tick as close to its attachment to the skin. When removing a tick, if its mouthparts break off and remain in the skin, do not be concerned. The mouthparts alone cannot transmit Lyme disease because the infective body of the tick is no longer attached. The mouthparts can be left alone. They will dry up and fall out by themselves in a few days or they can be removed as you would a splinter.
Lyme disease is just one of several diseases that can be transmitted by ticks. Others include babesiosis, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and infections from Powassan and/or deer tick viruses. The key to preventing Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases is taking safety precautions before heading into areas where ticks may be present. Anyone who will be spending time in a grassy or wooded area should:
- Make sure shirts are tucked in and also tuck pants into socks to prevent ticks from accessing the skin.
- Wear long sleeve shirts and pants, when practical.
- Wear light colored clothing that will make it easier to spot and remove ticks.
- Check for ticks every two to three hours while outdoors and brush off any ticks you find before they attach.
- Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks on your body.
- Perform a full body check multiple times during the day and at the end of the day to ensure that no ticks are attached.
Repellents also provide protection against tick bites. Choose a repellent that contains DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Use products that contain permethrin only on clothes. Treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks and tents. Treated clothing or gear remains protective through several washings. Pre-treated clothing is also available and remains protective for up to 70 washings. Follow the label directions when using repellents and apply in small amounts, avoiding contact with the eyes, nose or mouth. Use only small amounts when applying repellants on children.
Preventing Ticks on Your Pets
Dogs are very susceptible to tick bites and tick-borne diseases--more susceptible than cats. Vaccines are not available for all the tick-borne diseases that dogs can get, and they dont keep the dogs from bringing ticks into your home. For these reasons, it is important to use a tick preventive product on your dog.
Tick bites on dogs may be hard to detect. Signs of tick-borne disease may not appear for 7-21 days or longer after a tick bite, so watch your dog closely for changes in behavior or appetite if you suspect that your pet has been bitten by a tick. To reduce the chances that a tick will transmit disease to you or your pets:
- Check your pets for ticks daily, especially after they spend time outdoors.
- If you find a tick on your dog, remove it right away.
- Ask your veterinarian to conduct a tick check at each exam.
- Talk with your veterinarian about using tick preventives on your pet.
- Always follow label instructions when applying tick preventives to your pet.
Note: Cats are extremely sensitive to a variety of chemicals. Do not apply any tick preventative to your cats without first consulting your veterinarian!
Additional information about tick-borne diseases and recommended precautions can be found at: http://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/lyme/.