For many of us living in the Northeast, enjoying the outdoors after winter abates is paradise, and a great cure for cabin fever. However, in the past years there have been new insects and diseases that plague our summer activities. One of the largest concerns is ticks and the diseases they can spread, particularly with the tick population skyrocketing over the past few years. The following map shows the steady spread Lyme disease from 2001 to 2011:
Some have turned to indoor activities during peak tick season, typically May to June, to reduce the chances of an exposure. On the other hand, many people that work outdoors aren’t as fortunate. If we all stayed inside, highways wouldn’t get built, trees wouldn’t get cut and none of us would have to worry about sunburns. There is still hope to enjoy our summer activities with preventative measures that we can take to reduce the likelihood of a tick bite.
There are many different species of ticks, with certain breeds of ticks carrying potentially deadly diseases. The most common disease we associate with ticks is Lyme disease. According to the Center for Disease Control (the CDC), “Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks.” Though ticks are present throughout the country, the Northeast faces a much higher exposure than the rest of the nation.
There is a lot of evidence that points to the Northeast as leading the nation in numbers of ticks and in certified cases of Lyme disease. Oddly enough, one piece of evidence is the reduced amount of acorns in the environment. Reduction of acorns due to weather related changes have eliminated a source of food for the white-footed mice. These white-footed mice have been one of the largest sources of nourishment for the ticks. With the reduction of mice in the environment, the ticks look elsewhere for food. Unfortunately, humans, pets and other small animals are sometimes the sources they turn too. The CDC reports that, “[i]n 2011, 96% of Lyme disease cases were reported from 13 states; Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin.” Living in the Northeast gives us the greatest chance of being infected from a tick bite. Luckily, there are ways to prevent a bite.
What can we do to prevent tick bites?
- Avoid contact with vegetation and stay on trails or designated pathways.
- Wear long sleeves and pants to cover unprotected skin if you need to venture into the woods. Tuck your pants into your socks for added protection.
- Wear light colored clothes for easier spotting of dark tick bodies.
- Use insect repellents to shield exposed skin, but be aware that only repellents with higher than 20% DEET are marginally effective in deterring ticks. The best chemical repellent is premethrin which is applied to clothing, not skin, and which remains effective for weeks. Premethrin can usually be found at your local big box store in the Sporting Goods section. (Please follow all directions for use).
- Once indoors, complete thorough tick checks over your entire body as soon as possible.
- After the tick check, shower quickly to ensure any ticks that haven’t been spotted are rinsed away.
- Any clothing worn in tick-prone areas should be immediately washed to rid them of any hiding offenders, and not just thrown into a hamper or on the floor.
- If ticks are found, remove them carefully and promptly with a pair of tweezers, and then disinfect and monitor the bite area for several days for the tell-tale “bulls-eye” ring which may indicate infection.
- Preserve any ticks removed from your body in a closed ziplock bag so that the tick can be tested if you show signs of infection.
- Seek medical attention if you have been bitten.
- Thoroughly inspect pets regularly.
Responding promptly to a tick bite can make the difference between a temporary dose of antibiotics or dealing with a lifelong disease. Lyme disease starts out with symptoms similar to a regular flu; however, it quickly attacks the central nervous system and the heart. So, if there is any question that you may have been bitten, seek medical attention!
Even though an adult tick can generate up to 20,000 eggs and live for 20 years, the outdoors can still be enjoyed safely. Proper precautions can be implemented to reduce the chances of a bite. Additional attention should be taken for parents of young children or pet owners. Using the techniques and completing tick checks can greatly reduce the chances of Lyme disease or any other disease that ticks carry.
Acadia is pleased to share this material with its customers. Please note, however, that nothing in this document should be construed as legal advice or the provision of professional consulting services. This material is for general informational purposes only, and while reasonable care has been utilized in compiling this information, no warranty or representation is made as to accuracy or completeness. Distribution of this information does not constitute an assumption by us of your obligations to provide a safe workplace. Maintaining a safe workplace in accordance with all laws is your responsibility. We make no representation or warranty that our activities or recommendations will place you in compliance with law, relieve you of potential liability or ensure your premises or operations are safe. We exercise no control over your premises or operations and have no responsibility or authority to implement loss prevention practices or procedures.