Ticks are on the Rise - Lyme Disease Press Release

Ticks are on the Rise

The Paramus Board of Health Department Offers “Tick-Tips”

Paramus Health Officer Judith Migliaccio reports that Lyme disease is the most widely reported infectious disease in New Jersey. Lyme disease rates have significantly increased in the northern states due to the increased population of ticks. A contributing factor for the rise is climate change.  With warming temperatures and unpredictable weather, ticks are showing up in places that were once thought to be too cold.  As a result, the deer tick population is on the rise.

Lyme disease is a bacterial disease transmitted to humans via the bite of an infected deer tick. If detected at an early stage, Lyme disease can be treated successfully with appropriate antibiotic therapy. If untreated, Lyme disease can progress to more debilitating symptoms involving the heart, nervous system and other organs, requiring more intensive treatment.

Lyme disease can produce many varied symptoms, which may include a flu-like illness with achy joints, muscle pain and headache. A bull’s eye shaped rash is often seen at the site of the bite.

Migliaccio states that in order to prevent infection, it is critical to be aware of where ticks are typically found as well as simple safety precautions to prevent infection.

In nature, the Lyme disease bacteria exist in a life cycle involving ticks, small animals and deer. Deer ticks prefer to live in the woods; dense, mature woods with leaf litter, a thick undergrowth of shrubs and small trees are their favorite habitats. They are also found, to a lesser degree, along the edge of woods where it may meet the lawn of your property. Immature ticks (most active spring and early summer) are typically found low to the ground whereas adult ticks (most active fall and early winter) can crawl on low-lying vegetation and shrubs. They are spread in the wild by animals such as birds, mice, raccoons and deer, but domestic animals such as cats, dogs, horses and cows can also carry infected ticks closer to, and even into the home. When mice become infected, they remain so for long periods without apparent ill effects; however, they spread the infection to immature ticks that feed on them. These infected ticks can then spread the disease to other rodents and animals as well as to humans.

Adult ticks prefer to feed on larger animals, especially deer. Deer are resistant to Lyme infection, but are an important source of blood meals for adult ticks. More than 20 species of birds are known to be infected and have been theorized to transport the ticks over great distances, resulting in the spread to previously unaffected areas.

The Paramus Board of Health Department recommends a few simple precautions to prevent Lyme disease. If you spend time in areas where ticks may be found, take these steps:

  • Avoid wooded areas with dense shrubs and leaf litter, where ticks like to hide.
  • Make your yard less attractive to ticks: mow lawns and prune trees.
  • Wear solid, light colored clothing with pants tucked into socks. This will help prevent a tick from attaching to your skin and will also make sighting a tick on clothing easier. Use insect repellents on yourself and your pets. Two types of repellents that are effective for ticks are those containing DEET for use on clothes and exposed skin, and permethrin for use on clothes only. Read label directions carefully.
  • Examine yourself frequently for ticks while in tick-infested areas.
  • Perform a full-body exam on yourself, children, and pets after leaving tick habitat.
  • Remove attached ticks promptly.
    • Use fine-pointed tweezers.
    • Grasp the tick's mouth parts close to the skin.
    • Apply steady outward pressure.
    • Wash the area with soap and water.
    • Do not use petroleum jelly, noxious chemicals, or hot objects to remove ticks. Improper removal can increase the chances of infection.
  • If you find and remove a tick, document the date and watch for bull’s eye rash, red with a clearing in the center that may follow infection. The rash is usually painless and may be in the places not usually inspected such as the crease behind the knees and buttocks. Watch for flu-like symptoms such as tiredness, fever, headache, stiff neck, muscle aches and joint pain.  If you suspect infection, seek medical help promptly.