As warmer weather unfolds, be wary of ticks

CE-Around-County
By WILLIAM STEVENS
Staff writer

It appears as though spring has finally sprung, and with that an increase in outdoor activity.

But if you’re concerned about that Lyme-disease carrying insect as you are out and about, it’s difficult to say whether the season will usher in an uptick in ticks.

“Data is gathered every two years. This year’s data is not available yet, and some cases don’t meet the criteria to be considered confirmed,” said Lisa Snyder, a nurse with the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

Snyder and Janet Anderson, another nurse with the Department of Health, both of whom gave their observations and advice on ticks and Lyme disease during a presentation at Two-Mile Run County Park on Thursday, said reported cases of Lyme disease have held steady over the last three years.

“The DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) shows that there are ticks in every county in Pennsylvania,” Snyder said. “It’s endemic to our area because of an overabundance of deer. There is more recognition of the disease because there are more people living in wooded areas.”

In order for a tick to carry Lyme disease, they must first pick up a specific strain of bacteria – Borrelia burgdorferi – from either white-footed mice or deer, according to Snyder and Anderson.

They stressed ticks are never born with the bacteria.

Within the last 20 years, instances of Lyme disease nationwide have been between 20,000 and 25,000 confirmed cases with an additional 10,000 probable cases, according to information gathered by the Department of Health.

Ticks will search for soft skin in dark, moist areas although the search could last for hours. However, once they find a spot they like, they’ll burrow in and use a biological numbing agent to prevent detection, Snyder said.

It is recommended people use tweezers to pull ticks free, and then Snyder said you should seal it in a container and date it.

“That way if you start to feel sick later down the line, you can go to your doctor and say ‘I got bit by a tick and this is when it happened,'” Snyder said.

In order for a tick to transmit the disease to a person, they must be attached for approximately 36 to 48 hours, although some have been known to transmit quicker, according to Snyder.

One of the signs that a person has been bitten by a tick is what is referred to as a bulls-eye rash that forms after a tick has fed, Snyder said.

A circular rash will appear around the area of the tick bite, Snyder said, although sometimes it can appear somewhere else on the body.

“A person may also develop multiple rashes on different parts of the body,” Snyder said.

According to information from the Department of Health, the bull’s-eye rash can be used to diagnose Lyme disease.

Typical treatment is for the person who contracted Lyme disease to go on antibiotics for an unspecified amount of time because it varies from person to person.

People who do not address Lyme disease early may experience some facial paralysis, arthritis and inflammation of the heart, according to the Department of Health.

More information is available at www.health.pa.gov.