Deer Ticks Threaten in Late Spring and Early Summer

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It is prime tick season in Southern Maryland, bringing with it the threat of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses. To protect themselves from these diseases, residents are urged to take precautions and learn what to do if a tick bites.

According to St. Mary’s County Health Department and the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, a publication of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 148 cases of Lyme Disease were reported in St. Mary’s County in 2008.  Of these cases, 17 were confirmed, four were probable, 13 were listed as suspect, and the remaining 114 cases were eliminated for Lyme disease diagnosis.

These numbers are considered preliminary as late reporting and diagnosis may result in changes to this data.  Laboratories are required to report positive Lyme-related tests; however, the disease cannot be confirmed for surveillance purposes without supporting clinical information obtained from a person’s health care provider.

Compared to other state populations, Marylanders are considered to be at medium risk for the disease.  Those who spend time outdoors either for work or recreation are at greater risk of infection. 

Lyme disease is preventable.  Learning the risks, avoiding ticks, and knowing what to do if a tick bites, are measures that prevent the likelihood of the long term problems caused by Lyme disease.  As a final line of defense, oral antibiotics that are administered within seven days of the first symptoms will usually prevent chronic health problems caused by the bacterial infection. 

Deer tick nymphs, the size of poppy seeds, are responsible for spreading Lyme disease.  Nymphs are most active in the late Spring and Summer.  Tick bites lead to the tell-tale bulls eye rash in 85 – 90 percent of reported infections, but other symptoms are also serious indicators of a problem.  Rash and/or flu like symptoms usually occur within one month of the tick exposure.  Nervous symptom disruptions, arthritis-like pain, partial paralysis, and vision problems are also manifestations of the disease.  If left untreated, neurological problems, chronic arthritis, and cardiac abnormalities may remain for life. 

The most important step to take is to call your doctor if you have been bitten by a tick, or may have been exposed to deer ticks, and you are displaying any of these symptoms.  Blood tests or cultures can verify if the symptoms are caused by Lyme disease.  Timely antibiotic treatment will successfully treat the infection. 

To avoid ticks, people are cautioned to stay clear of woods and tall grassy areas heavily infested with ticks. When avoiding these areas is impossible, people are cautioned to:

  • use tick repellent according to the directions on the product label.  Children should use tick repellent with a maximum of 30% DEET; the repellent should be sprayed on their skin and clothes.
  • wear light-colored clothes to help spot ticks.
  • wear protective clothing (long pants and long-sleeved shirts, tuck pant legs into socks, and tuck shirt into pants). wear protective shoes (no open toes).
  • check frequently for tick attachment, especially areas where clothing meets the skin, such as the waistline.

At the end of the day, thoroughly check entire body (head to toe) on yourself and your children for attached ticks; if outside with pets be sure to check them for ticks too.

It is very important to remove ticks properly.  Mark your calendar on the date when a tick is taken off your body.  This information wi

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