Lyme disease is a tick-borne illness that is contracted from deer ticks, usually occurring from May through July. There are a few protective steps that will lessen the chances of getting this disease.
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that ticks contract from biting an infected animal, usually mice or deer. The tick can then pass the disease along to a human when biting skin. Ticks are usually found on the tips of grass blades or brush, and they use that cover to crawl on to you when you pass by. Lyme disease is a very real threat on Eastern Long Island and New York State at large where 2,385 cases were confirmed last year.
To minimize your risk of being bitten, you should wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants in wooded or grassy areas to limit your skin exposure. These clothes should be light in color so the black ticks are easier to spot and remove. Ticks are tiny, so look closely for them after coming inside. Ticks tend to latch on to the backs of your knees, behind your ears, your scalp and your back, so make sure you pay particular attention to those areas.1
You should also be aware that deer ticks often attach themselves to pets to find their way into homes. After walks, owners should give their pets a thorough once over to make sure no ticks are present. It is also recommended that owners check with their veterinarian about products to reduce tick exposure.1
An infected deer tick must feed for an entire blood meal to infect the host, which can take up to 48 hours. If you find a tick, remove it as soon as possible. Use tweezers or a specialized tick-removal tool and pull the tick in a steady, upward motion away from the skin, without jerking or twisting the body. Disinfect the bite area and wash your hands. If a tick has already embedded itself in the skin, it needs to be taken care of immediately.
There are many symptoms of Lyme disease and they tend to vary from patient to patient. Generally, the first symptom is a slowly expanding rash extending from the bite site in the shape of a “bull’s eye.” Other symptoms of Lyme disease can include chills, fever, fatigue, headache, a stiff neck, jaw discomfort and pain or stiffness in muscles and joints. Symptoms can be treated with antibiotics and the earlier the treatment begins, the easier it is to prevent long-term effects, which can affect the heart or central nervous system. Contact your doctor at the first sign of Lyme disease.3
Current law does not stipulate that Lyme disease and other tick borne related pathogens be covered under individual and group health insurance policies. Proper long term care is essential. Consequently, Assemblyman Thiele has introduced legislation (A.7696-A) which would require health insurers to provide coverage for long term medical care for Lyme disease and other tick borne related pathogens.
By taking the proper precautions, you can greatly reduce your risk of contracting Lyme disease. For further information, visit the New York State Department of Health website (www.health.ny.gov), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website (www.hhs.gov) or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website (www.cdc.gov).