Dangerous uptick in Lyme disease
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Lyme disease is a public health problem affecting Americans more than previous reports have suggested.
There are approximately 300,000 reported cases of tickborne illness every year in the United States. However, the CDC estimates there may be far more cases. This new report confirms that Lyme disease in particular, is on the rise.
Lyme disease is most common in the Northeast and Midwest but cases have been reported in all 50 states. Ticks can be found from the spring until the fall frost, however September is when ticks can be most prevalent.
Experts say ticks can hitch rides on migrating animals.
“As the deer migrate from Wisconsin and into the northern Illinois counties and suburbs, we’re experiencing an influx of deer ticks,” says Dr. Stephen Sokalski, chief of infectious disease and epidemiology at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill.
Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria carried by blacklegged ticks, also known as deer ticks. Deer ticks can be distinguished by their appearance from the common dog tick, which does not carry the Lyme disease organism. Deer ticks can be the size of the tip of a pencil to a sesame seed, and may not be easily detected. They are more prevalent in wooded and high grassy areas.
Once attached to a human host for at least 36 to 48 hours, the blood-sucking insect can transmit the bacteria, causing the onset of rashes, headaches and common flu-like symptoms. Those symptoms, if left untreated, may eventually lead to arthritis, meningitis, and facial paralysis or heart complications, according to the CDC.
That’s why it’s important to carefully check your body and clothing for ticks after being outdoors in woody and grassy areas. If you see a tick, you can lessen the chance of infection by removing it from your body early, even if it’s already begun to feed, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Several ways to avoid, repel and remove ticks according to the CDC include:
Avoid Direct Contact with Ticks
- Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.
- Walk in the center of trails.
Prevent Ticks with a repellent
- Use repellents that contain 20 – 30% DEET on exposed skin and clothing, this is the active ingredient to repel insects.
- Use products that contain permethrin (a special pesticide) on clothing.
- Click here to view other repellents registered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Find and Remove Ticks from Your Body
- Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you.
- Conduct a full-body tick check using a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body upon return from tick-infested areas.
- Parents should check their children for ticks under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist and especially in their hair.
Examine gear and pets. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets, then attach to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats, and day packs. Tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour to kill any remaining ticks.
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health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.