MAYVILLE, NY – Fall is a great time of year to get outside and explore the natural beauty of Chautauqua County, and the local health department encourages residents to take precautions while enjoying outdoor activities to prevent tick bites.
As part of their work to prevent disease, promote health and protect the safety of the community, the Chautauqua County Health Department advises residents to check for and properly remove ticks, understand the symptoms of Lyme disease and know when to call your medical provider.
“Not all ticks can cause disease and not all tick 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 were exposed to a tick-borne disease,” said Jessica Wuerstle, Director of Environmental Health.
Lyme disease has more than doubled in Chautauqua County since 2014. Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and can be spread to humans when an infected blacklegged tick (also known as a “deer tick”) attaches to a human. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, typically a tick must be attached for more than 36 hours to be able to transmit the Lyme disease causing bacterium. If you can locate and remove a tick within 24 hours an attached tick is much less likely to cause Lyme disease.
Deer ticks live in shady, moist areas at ground level. They cling to tall grass, brushes and shrubs, usually no more than 18-24 inches off the ground. They also live in lawns and gardens, especially at the edges of forested areas and around old stone walls. Ticks cannot jump or fly onto a person; they wait in vegetation and cling to animals or humans that pass by. Once a tick gets on the skin, it generally climbs upward until it reaches a warm, protected area.
If you spend time outdoors, please take the following steps to 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 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 and mouth.
• Stay on open, well-traveled trails. Walk in the center of trails and avoid dense wooded and bushy areas.
• Avoid sitting directly on the ground or on stone walls.
• Keep long hair tied back.
• 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 (remember to check children and pets) and remove ticks quickly.
Left to right size comparison of deer tick life stages over a dime: larva, nymph, adult male, adult female
If you find an attached tick, you should remove it immediately, preferably with fine point tweezers. Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and firmly pull the tick straight out.
Depending on how long the tick was biting, a one time dose of antibiotic may be indicated to prevent Lyme disease. Contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible to discuss possible treatment options, especially if you do not know how long the tick has been there or if the tick is engorged with blood.
If you develop symptoms of Lyme disease (listed below), it is recommended to seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Lyme Disease Symptoms
Early Signs and Symptoms (3-30 days after tick bite):
- Fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes may occur in the absence of rash
- Erythema migrans (EM) rash (see photo):
- Occurs in approximately 70 to 80 percent of infected persons
- Begins at the site of a tick bite after a delay of 3 to 30 days (average is about 7 days)
- Expands gradually over several days reaching up to 12 inches or more (30 cm) across
- May feel warm to the touch but is rarely itchy or painful
- Sometimes clears as it enlarges, resulting in a target or “bull’s-eye” appearance
- May appear on any area of the body
- Does not always appear as a “classic” erythema migrans rash
Later signs and symptoms (days to weeks after tick bite):
- Severe headaches and neck stiffness
- Additional EM rashes on other areas of the body
- Facial palsy (loss of muscle tone or droop on one or both sides of the face)
- Arthritis with severe joint pain and swelling, particularly the knees and other large joints.
- Intermittent pain in tendons, muscles, joints, and bones
- Heart palpitations or an irregular heart beat (Lyme carditis)
- Episodes of dizziness or shortness of breath
- Inflammation of the brain and spinal cord
- Nerve pain
- Shooting pains, numbness, or tingling in the hands or feet
The Chautauqua County Health Department cannot test ticks to determine if they are carrying bacteria that can cause disease. For more information, go to www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/lyme or www.cdc.gov/lyme/index.html or contact the local Environmental Health Division at 1-800-604-6789.
About Chautauqua County Health Department - The Chautauqua County Health Department is the leading Public Health organization in Chautauqua County dedicated to the support of the community’s health. The Health Department takes innovative approaches to provide technical assistance to partner organizations, and offers various programs and services in order to help prevent disease, protect the public’s health and promote our community’s overall health and wellness. For more information visit www.HealthyCHQ.com.