What Your Should Know About Lyme Disease And Ticks

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Submitted by the Anne Arundel County Department of Health

Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in Anne Arundel County, as well as in Maryland and the United States. Cases of Lyme disease are found throughout the county and are not concentrated in any particular area. The county had 91 newly reported cases of Lyme disease in 2018, 121 cases in 2017, 174 cases in 2016 and 107 cases in 2015.

How Is It Spread?

Lyme disease is spread to people from a tiny tick the size of a pinhead known as a blacklegged or deer tick. The tick is hard to see because it is so small. Only about 65% of people in confirmed cases noticed a tick before they became ill. In most cases, the tick needs to be on a person for at least 24 hours before the person becomes infected.

These ticks are most often found from May through October in tall grass, brush and wooded areas. But they can be present, in smaller numbers, throughout the year. Pets can bring ticks into the house. Mice also carry ticks.

What Are The Symptoms?

Symptoms usually start within a month of being infected. About 75% of patients with early Lyme disease will have a skin lesion in the first one to four weeks of infection. Some get a “bull’s eye rash” that has a red center. Other early symptoms may include fever, joint and muscle pains, headache or fatigue. Lyme disease is hard to diagnose because the symptoms often mimic other diseases. Special laboratory tests may be needed to make a diagnosis.

If left untreated, the infection can lead to serious illnesses of the heart, joints and nervous system.

Lyme disease may cause birth defects or miscarriages.

How Can It Be Prevented?

  • Wear light-colored, long-sleeved shirts and pants that you can tuck into your socks when working or walking in areas likely to have ticks.
  • Spray arms and legs with an insect repellent containing DEET (up to 30% for adults, 10% for children) or picaridin. For occasional exposure, adults can spray clothing with an insecticide, permethrin, for more protection. Use repellents and insecticides as directed by the manufacturer. Follow your doctor’s advice for extended use or for use on children, during pregnancy or if you have skin problems.
  • It is important that parents conduct a thorough inspection of children. Look along the hairline, in the hair and ears, and where clothing fits snugly. Because ticks can spread other serious illnesses, a whole body inspection every three to four hours is safest when in grassy or wooded areas.
  • After coming indoors, wash and dry clothes as soon as possible, preferably at a hot temperature. Wash off insect repellent remaining on the skin.
  • Remove leaves, brush and tall grass around houses, pathways and gardens.
  • Treat and discourage infestations of mice in or near houses.

If You Find A Tick

Remove the tick right away, but do not touch it with your bare hands. Use tweezers to grip the tick behind its head and as close to the skin as you can. Gently pull it off. If tweezers are not available, use your fingers wearing gloves or a tissue. Do not smash or burn the tick.

Tick Removal

After removing the tick, wash your hands with soap and water or waterless alcohol-based hand rub. Clean the tick bite with an antiseptic such as iodine scrub, rubbing alcohol, or soap and water.

Mark a calendar on the date you found the tick and watch for symptoms for at least a month.

If a rash develops or you experience other symptoms within three to 32 days, call your physician immediately.

For more information on Lyme disease, call the Anne Arundel County Department of Health at 410-222-7256.

SIDEBAR: How To Remove A Tick

If you find a tick attached to your skin, there’s no need to panic — the key is to remove the tick as soon as possible. Several tick removal devices are on the market, but a plain set of fine-tipped tweezers work well.

  • Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
  • Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
  • After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
  • Never crush a tick with your fingers. Dispose of a live tick by putting it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet.

Follow-up

  • If you develop a rash or fever within several weeks of removing a tick, see your doctor. Tell the doctor about your recent tick bite, when the bite occurred, and where you most likely acquired the tick.

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