Observer staff report
The Vermont Health Department is reminding Vermonters to be aware of ticks this time of year.
Lyme disease is transmitted from the bite of infected deer ticks. This time of year the nymphs—immature ticks, which are about the size of a poppy seed—are biting and may spread the bacteria that cause Lyme disease.
Transmission can be prevented if the tick is removed within about 36 hours, but the nymphs are so small that they can go unnoticed if you aren’t looking for them carefully. A few simple steps can help prevent tick bites and the risk of getting Lyme disease. Start by avoiding areas that are good tick habitat as much as is practical. Ticks tend to be common in tall grass, areas with a lot of brush and leaf litter, and along forest edges.
Before you go outside, remember to use insect repellant with up to 30 percent DEET and treat clothes with permethrin. When possible, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants. Inspect yourself regularly when outside to catch any ticks before they bite.
Do daily tick checks from head to toe on yourself, children and pets. While nymphs are most commonly found on the lower legs, they may be anywhere on the body.
Remove ticks promptly. Use fine-tipped tweezers and firmly grasp the tick close to the skin. Avoid touching the tick with your bare hands. With a steady motion, pull straight up until all parts of the tick are removed. Do not twist or jerk the tick. Do not be alarmed if the tick’s mouthparts remain in the skin. Once the mouthparts are removed from the rest of the tick, it can no longer transmit the Lyme disease bacteria. Showering within two hours of coming indoors can help wash ticks off the skin.
The incidence of Lyme disease continues to rise in Vermont. In 2013, there were more than 600 confirmed cases of Lyme disease reported to the Vermont Department of Health.
The first sign of Lyme disease is often an expanding red rash at the site of the tick bite. The rash usually appears seven to 14 days after the tick bite, but sometimes it takes up to 30 days to appear. Not everyone gets the rash, so be on the lookout for other symptoms of early Lyme disease, such as fatigue, headache, fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes and muscle and joint pain.
Lyme disease can be successfully treated with antibiotics, especially if treatment is given early.
For more information about ticks and Lyme disease visit healthvermont.gov.