Oswego County Public Information Office, 46 East Bridge St., Oswego, NY 13126

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May 19, 2004

Lyme Disease Awareness Month

The sun is warm, the trees are budding, the days are longer and everything in the spring season is inviting you to put on a short-sleeved shirt, slip into your walking shoes and enjoy the outdoors.

Take advantage of the warm weather as much as you can, but remember that the risk of Lyme disease is present throughout New York State, recommends Kathy Smith, Commissioner of the Oswego County Health Department.

May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month, and Smith is reminding everyone to think about protecting yourself and your family while enjoying outdoor activities.

"Lyme disease is caused by the bite of an infected deer tick. Ticks are active once the weather stays above freezing," said Evan Walsh, senior public health sanitarian. "In tick-prone areas, any contact with vegetation, even playing in the yard, can result in exposure to ticks."

Lyme disease can have serious complications if it is not identified and treated early. The most noticeable early sign of Lyme disease is a rash resembling a bull's-eye, or solid patch, which usually, but not always, develops between three and 30 days after the tick bite.

The rash often expands over time and can last for several weeks. In some cases, no rash appears, while in other cases, there are multiple rashes. The rash does not normally itch or feel painful.

Other symptoms of early Lyme disease include fever, fatigue, headache, stiff neck, muscle aches and joint paint. If you notice these signs or symptoms, consult a health care provider immediately.

Insect repellents can greatly reduce your risk of Lyme disease. Follow label directions carefully and do not allow children to apply insect repellents themselves.

"One of the most effective ways to avoid Lyme disease is to check your body for ticks at the end of every day. Check your entire body, paying particular attention to the back of knees, behind ears, the scalp area, armpits and your back," Walsh said.

It is important that a tick be removed as soon as it is discovered. If the tick is removed within 36 hours, the risk of Lyme disease is greatly reduced.

If you find a tick attached to your body, remove it by taking the following steps:

  • Using tweezers, grasp the tick near the mouthparts, as close to the skin as possible.
  • Be careful not to squeeze, crush or puncture the body of the tick, which may contain infectious fluids.
  • Pull the tick in a steady, upward motion away from the skin.
  • Do not attempt to remove ticks by using petroleum jelly, kerosene, lit cigarettes or other home remedies. They may increase the chance of contracting a tick-borne disease.
  • After removing the tick, thoroughly disinfect the bite site with soap, rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. Wash your hands carefully.

"Contact your health care provider if you have any concerns about incomplete tick removal. Record the date and location of the tick bite," advises Smith. "If a rash appears or you experience flu-like symptoms, contact your health care provider immediately."

To learn more about Lyme disease, call the Oswego County Health Department at 349-3564 or 1-800-596-3200, ext. 3564.

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