May is Tickborne Disease Awareness Month

We’ve all been there…sitting out on the porch swing relaxing, petting the dog, taking in the sunset, and then all of a sudden, AAAAAAAHHHHHH! A tick. May in Vermont is Tickborne Disease Awareness Month, and those little critters are everywhere.

Experts say that this year’s tick population is particularly bountiful due to the warm temperatures over the past seasons; veterinarians were seeing ticks on animals throughout the winter. But the proliferation of these tiny terrors doesn’t mean a tickborne disease is in everyone’s future. With a few preventative actions, ticks and their diseases can be kept at bay.

Ticks range in size from tiny to terribly big; inspect people and pets in your home daily
Ticks range in size from tiny to terribly big; inspect people and pets in your home daily

The Vermont Department of Health is drawing attention this month to Lyme disease and anaplasmosis, two tickborne diseases that have been affecting increasing numbers of Vermonters over the past decade.

“The black-legged tick causes over 99% of the tickborne diseases reported in Vermont,” said Bradley Tompkins, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the Vermont Department of Health (DOH). “During the spring, ticks are active and looking to feed on people or their pets. The trouble is, these ticks can be as small as a poppy seed right now, so we all need to be aware of the risks and take action to protect ourselves.”

There are three easy tips to remember before you, your pets, and your loved ones head outside this spring and summer.

REPEL – Before you go outside, apply an EPA-registered insect repellent on your skin and treat your clothes with permethrin. When possible, wear light-colored long sleeved shirts and long pants, and tuck your pant legs into your socks to decrease access to your skin. Inspect yourself regularly when outside to catch any ticks before they attach.

INSPECT – Do daily tick checks on your self, your children, and your pets. Inspect yourself from head to toe.

REMOVE – Remove ticks promptly. Showering within two hours of coming indoors has also been proven effective in preventing Lyme disease by washing ticks off the skin before they can attach.

Should you get bitten anyway, the DOH recommends watching closely for early signs of Lyme disease during the weeks following a bite. The first sign is often an expanding red rash at the site of the tick bite, which usually appears seven to 14 days after the tick bite, but sometimes takes up to 30 days to show up. The rash does not occur with every bite, so be vigilant for other symptoms of early Lyme disease such as fatigue, headache, fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes, and muscle and joint pain. Early signs of anaplasmosis are fever, muscle pain and malaise. Both diseases can be successfully treated with antibiotics, especially if treatment is given early.

The DOH’s web site, www.healthvermont.gov, has plenty of information about ticks and tick-borne diseases, including tick-identification cards and video instructions on how to safely remove a tick.

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