Tick-Borne Disease Precautions
As summer approaches and more people and pets spend time outdoors, residents are reminded to take precautions to avoid tick-borne diseases. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the State of Maryland reported over 1800 Lyme disease cases in 2016.
Ticks survive by consuming blood from a host, including humans and other warm blooded animals, and they can transmit infectious diseases when they bite.
Preventing tick bites is the best way to avoid tick-borne illness. The following precautions should be taken to prevent tick bites:
- Be aware that ticks are most active in late spring through early fall – ticks are most commonly found in woods, marshy places, bushes, shrubs, leaf litter and tall grass
- Wear long pants and sleeves to help keep ticks off your skin
- Tuck your shirt into your pants, and pants into socks, to keep ticks on the outside of clothing
- Wear light colored clothing to help you spot ticks more easily
- Spray insect repellent with 20-30% DEET on clothes and exposed skin
- Treat clothing with permethrin, but do not use permethrin directly on skin
- Talk to your veterinarian about tick control products for your pets
- When hiking, walk in the center of the trail when in woods or high grass. Stay away from brushy areas, high grass and leaf litter.
- Check for ticks daily.
- Bathe or shower as soon as possible (within 2 hours) after coming indoors to wash off ticks.
- Properly remove ticks from the body or from pets
- Contact your health care provider if you develop any symptoms after a tick bite or after being in tick habitat
Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in Maryland and in the U.S. Lyme disease is transmitted by the bite of an infected black-legged, or “deer” tick. In most cases, the tick must be attached for at least 24 hours or more before the transmission to occur. From 3-30 days after a tick bite, a gradually expanding rash may occur at the site of the bite on infected people. The rash can expand over several days up to 12 inches and may or may not resemble a bull’s eye. Other symptoms may include fever, headache and fatigue. If untreated, Lyme disease may progress to involve joints, the nervous system, and the cardiac system. Contact your health care provider if you develop any of these symptoms after a tick bite or after being in tick habitat. Most cases of tick-borne disease can be cured with antibiotics, especially when treated early.
Proper removal of ticks with fine-tipped tweezers is very important. Do not use petroleum jelly, a hot match, nail polish or other products to remove a tick. Once the tick has been removed, clean your skin with soap and warm water. Marking on a calendar the date the tick was removed may be useful information for your health care provider should any symptoms occur later.
Additional information about Lyme disease symptoms, treatment, and proper tick removal may be found at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. The Maryland Lyme Disease Case Report form – the Mandatory Reportable Conditions form and list of mandatory reportable conditions (for use by health care providers) – may be found on the St. Mary’s County Health Department’s website.