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Acarophobia? A Healthy Fear of Ticks May Protect You Against a Host of Diseases

RCDOH says that between May - September, watch for immature ticks - about the size of a poppy seed. One stage of immature ticks, called nymphs, cause about 90 percent of all Lyme disease cases.

 

There aren’t many arachnids/insects that can compete with the deer tick for most feared or reviled in Rockland County (the cockroach may be a close second though). For years, county health departments in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut have issued warnings to the public urging caution in wooded areas where ticks—some no bigger than the head of a pin—can congregate and attach themselves to a human host.

But it’s not without good reason.

According to the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), the rates of Lyme Disease—the most common disease spread by ticks to humans—in the Hudson Valley are some of the highest in the state. In Westchester, the rate was nearly 72, with 2,045 total cases reported within a 2008 population of 953,943. As for Rockland, there were 881 reported cases of Lyme Disease between 2007-09, a rate of 98.4 among a population in 2008 of 298,545. See the full list on the NYDOH website here and here.

Lyme Disease is the most common of the tickborne diseases, with early stage symptoms—appearing approximately 3-30 days after the tick bite—that include an unmistakable bulls-eye rash, fever, chills and fatigue.  If left untreated, the disease can cause increasingly severe symptoms such as a loss of muscle tone on one or both sides of the face (Bell’s palsy); joint pain; severe headaches; arthritis or “chronic Lyme Disease,” which is a resistance to treatment that occurs when diagnosis is delayed. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), these persistent symptoms may be a result of immune system damage sustained during the body’s time spent fighting the infection.

Other, less common tickborne diseases include ehrlichiosis—a bacterial infection whose symptoms include fever, headache, nausea and low white blood cell count among others—and babesiosis, which causes symptoms similar to malaria such as fever, chills, muscle aches and difficulty breathing.  Both disorders can be treated with antibiotics.

If you do discover a tick on your body, however, don’t panic, advises the Rockland County Department of Health (RCDOH). They say that between May - September, watch for immature ticks - about the size of a poppy seed. One stage of immature ticks, called nymphs, cause about 90 percent of all Lyme disease cases.

Not all ticks are infected with diseases and, even if they are, your chances of getting sick are significantly lessened if you remove the tick within 24 hours of its attachment.

The RCDOH recommends the following : 

An attached tick should be removed correctly as soon as it is discovered. Removing an attached tick quickly and correctly may reduce your chances of getting Lyme disease.

  1. Use fine point tweezers to grasp the tick where its mouth parts enter the skin.
  2. Pull the tick straight out. Be careful not to squeeze, crush, or puncture the body of the tick.
  3. After removing the tick, disinfect the area and the tweezers, and wash your hands.
  4. Save the tick and have it identified at the Cornell Cooperative Extension.
  5. Do not try to remove ticks by using petroleum jelly (Vaseline), lit cigarettes or other home remedies because these methods may just increase your chance of getting infected.

Tick Identification:

Cornell Cooperative Extension
c/o Horticulture Laboratory
10 Patriot Hills Drive
Stony Point, NY 10980
(845) 429-7085
http://www.rocklandcce.org/
$7.00 fee

For Diagnosis and Treatment, contact your health care provider, an infectious disease physician, or call the Lyme Disease Practice at the Westchester Medical Center, (914) 493-8425. There are also tips on the RCDOH website on Personal Protection Techniques and how to manage your environment/home to help prevent ticks.

Please call the Tickborne Disease hotline for updated information: (914) 813-LYME.

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