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May 12, 2014

Warm Weather Brings Increased Risk of Lyme Disease

Each year, more than 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported to the Centers for Disease Control, making it the most commonly reported tick-borne illness in the United States. Lyme disease can cause serious health problems if not diagnosed early and treated properly. As the temperature is getting warmer and people are involved in more outdoor activities, the Oswego County Health Department reminds residents of steps they can take to prevent Lyme disease. Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted by the bite of an infected deer tick. Ticks transmit disease in two of their life stages: nymph (the immature) and adult. Nymphal deer ticks are active from May through July, and it is the bite of these small ticks (as opposed to adult deer ticks, which are active in fall) that lead to most Lyme infections. Common habitats for the deer tick are leaf litter in wooded areas, grassy areas along wooded edges, and low bushes and shrubs. Deer ticks are not commonly found on athletic fields and cut lawns.

In Oswego County, the Oswego County Health Department reported 76 cases of Lyme disease last year. Already this year, there have been four cases confirmed. "Cases of Lyme disease have been on the increase in Oswego County for the past several years," said Jiancheng Huang, Oswego County Public Health Director. "Reported human cases in Oswego County were 5 in 2009, 13 in 2010, 19 in 2011, and 42 in 2012."

Hundreds of dogs in Oswego County have also been infected and treated for Lyme disease by local veterinarians.

It takes between 36 and 72 hours for an infected deer tick to infect its host with the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, so it is important to check for ticks daily.

Early signs of Lyme disease may include rash and flu-like symptoms, including fever, muscle aches, headaches, and fatigue. As the disease progresses, multiple systems can be involved. Patients can suffer chronic pain, neurological impairment, and other serious symptoms.

"Children may be at particular risk because of the amount of time they spend playing outdoors," said Huang. "Spring and summer are the seasons when most people who get Lyme disease are exposed to it. The best strategy regarding Lyme disease prevention is to avoid exposure to ticks."

Scientists at the CDC are studying a variety of issues that involve the spread of Lyme disease. They include rodents that carry the Lyme disease bacteria, deer that play a key role in the ticks' lifecycle, suburban planning, and the interaction between deer, rodents, ticks, and humans. All must be addressed to effectively fight Lyme disease.

The CDC recommends people take these steps to help prevent Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases:

" Wear repellent

" Check for ticks daily

" Shower soon after being outdoors

" Call your doctor if you get a fever or rash.

Ticks love humid, wooded areas, and die rapidly in dry and sunny environments. The following tips from the CDC may help make backyards, parks and playgrounds tick-safe zones:

" Clear all leaf litter, tall grasses, and brush around your home and the edges of your lawn.

" Wood chips restrict tick migration. Place them between your lawns and wooded areas.

" Mow your lawn regularly. Clear brush and leaf litter often.

" If you have a bird feeder, keep the area below it clean.

" Make sure wood is neatly stacked in dry areas.

" Place playground equipment, patios and decks away from yard edges and trees.

For more information on Lyme disease, visit www.helth.ny.gov/diseases or www.cdc.gov/lyme.

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