MAYVILLE, N.Y.: – Tick populations are growing in Chautauqua County and the percentage of ticks that are infected with the bacteria that causes Lyme disease is also increasing. The Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) advises residents and visitors to prevent tick bites, check for and properly remove ticks, and understand the symptoms for Lyme disease.
Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is spread to humans through the bite of an infected blacklegged tick (also known as a “deer tick). The New York State Department of Health conducts annual tick surveillance to monitor for tick-borne pathogens. Results from 2017 showed that in specific areas of Chautauqua County, the rate of ticks infected with Lyme disease bacteria is as high as 54 percent. In some cases, the percentage of ticks that tested positive for the bacteria doubled in just one year.
“The risk of human infection is greatest in late spring and summer, due to the blacklegged tick’s life cycle,” said Mark Stow, Director of Environmental Health Services. “Tick populations vary widely with some areas teaming with ticks while other areas have virtually no ticks.”
Lyme disease is spread when an infected tick bites a person and remains attached for 36 hours or more.
“Not all ticks can cause disease and not all bites will make you sick, but it's important to learn how to prevent a bite, how to remove a tick and what to do if you think you could have a tick-borne disease,” said Christine Schuyler, County Director of Health and Human Services.
In 70-80 percent of cases, an expanding rash resembling a bullseye or solid patch will appear near the site of the bite. If an expanding rash with a diameter of two inches or more appears or flu-like symptoms occur over a 30-day period following a tick bite, contact your health care provider immediately.
Protect Against Ticks and Prevent Disease
Deer ticks live in shady, moist areas at ground level. They will cling to tall grass, brush and shrubs, usually no more than 18-24 inches off the ground. They also live in lawns and gardens, especially at the edges of woods and around old stone walls. Once a tick gets on the skin, it generally climbs upward until it reaches a protected area.
Your best protection against Lyme disease is to avoid contact with ticks by avoiding soil, leaf litter and vegetation. However, if you garden, hike, camp, hunt, work or otherwise spend time in the outdoors, you can still protect yourself:
• Wear light-colored clothing with a tight weave to spot ticks easily.
• Wear enclosed shoes, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Tuck pant legs into socks or boots and shirts into pants.
• Check clothes and any exposed skin frequently for ticks while outdoors.
• Consider using insect repellent that contains DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Follow the label directions when using repellents and apply in small amounts, avoiding contact with the eyes, nose or mouth. For more information on repellents visit https://www.health.ny.gov/publications/2749/
• Stay on cleared, well-traveled trails. Walk in the center of trails. Avoid dense woods and bushy areas.
• Avoid sitting directly on the ground or on stone walls.
• Keep long hair tied back, especially when gardening.
• Bathe or shower as soon as possible after going indoors (preferably within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that may be on you.
• Do a final, full-body tick check at the end of the day (also check children and pets), and remove ticks promptly. Be aware that a nymphal deer ticks is about the size of a poppyseed, and an adult is roughly the size of a sesame seed.
How to safely remove a tick: Use pointed tweezers. Grasp the tick by the head or mouth right where it enters the skin. Pull firmly and steadily upward.
Photo credit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
If a tick is found on the body, it is critical to remove it immediately, preferably with fine point tweezers. Grasp the tick as close to its attachment to the skin and pull firmly upward. 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.
For more information, go to https://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/lyme or https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/index.html or contact the Environmental Health Division at 1-800-604-6789.