WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As outdoor recreational activities reach their
peak during the summer months, more U.S. residents will be exposed to the risk of contracting Lyme disease.
The prime season for Lyme disease-bearing ticks is generally mid-July through September. During the past 10 years, 90 percent of reported cases occurred in: New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Rhode Island, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Delaware.
With more than 15,000 cases reported annually, Lyme disease is the most common tickborne infectious illness in the U.S. People who live and work in areas surrounded by wood or overgrown brush infested by ticks should be extra cautious to protect
themselves, especially during the summer months, advises Jeanne Pfeiffer, RN, MPH, CIC, president of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC).
Pfeiffer noted that within seven to 14 days following the tick bite, nearly 80 percent of infected patients experience symptoms that include a red, slowly expanding bulls-eye rash (called erythema migrans), accompanied by general tiredness, fever, headache, stiff neck, muscle aches, and joint pain. Patients who do not seek immediate treatment, within a few weeks may develop arthritis, including intermittent episodes of swelling and pain in the large joints; neurologic abnormalities, such as aseptic meningitis, facial palsy, motor and sensory nerve inflammation, and inflammation of the brain; and rarely, cardiac problems.
If you want to avoid risk altogether, steer clear of areas where ticks usually dwell close to the ground, such as moist, shaded environments with low brushy, wooded and grassy
regions. But, if you enjoy the outdoors and anticipate being in such areas, APIC recommends that you follow these simple precautionary measures to prevent the risk of infection:
-- Wear light-colored clothing so that ticks can be spotted more easily and removed before becoming attached to the skin. If possible, wear long-sleeves, long pants and socks when outdoors.
-- Apply insect repellents containing DEET to clothes and exposed skin, and apply permethrin (which kills ticks on contact) to clothes. Do not spray repellents containing DEET on skin under clothing, and do not apply permethrin directly on skin.
-- Check and remove promptly loose or attached ticks, as bacteria transmission from infected ticks is unlikely to occur before 36 hours. Chances of contracting Lyme disease
are greatly reduced if the tick is removed within the first 24 hours
-- Use tweezers to remove an attached tick, by getting as close as possible to the ticks mouthpart and gently pulling straight back
-- Monitor early signs of infection and seek medical assistance if symptoms develop
--Around residential properties, keep grasses cut; remove leaf litter, brush, and woodpiles; clear trees and brush to admit sunlight and reduce deer, rodent and tick habitat; and apply pesticides
Early diagnosis and proper antibiotic treatment of Lyme disease are mandatory to avoid late-stage complications, Pfeiffer said. However, adopting basic preventive measures remains the best weapon in the war against this seasonal disease.
Source: Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC)