STRATFORD—The persistent cool and damp weather in the northeast this spring has put many outdoor activities on hold. With the weather finally improving, many people will head outdoors, and when they do, they are likely to find a perennial pest has been lurking, ready to latch onto the next warm-blooded body that comes by.
“And that could spell serious health trouble,” warns Dr. Chad Richmond, a family physician at the UDMNJ-School of Osteopathic Medicine.
“Ticks thrive in damp areas where bushes and grasses are overgrown. As the weather warms, we’re bound to see an explosion both in the tick population and in Lyme disease,” Richmond said. “And, don’t think it cant happen to you. Each year, New Jersey has more cases of Lyme disease than every state except for New York and Pennsylvania.”
According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), New Jersey residents accounted for about one out of every nine cases of Lyme disease reported in 2007, the most recent year for which statistics are available. Nationally, the highest incidence is in children 5 to 14 years old, and in adults who are between 50 and 70 years old.
Lyme disease is caused by bacteria that ticks ingest when feeding upon infected animals such as birds, mice, chipmunks, raccoon, and deer. Once infected, the ticks transmit the bacteria to the next living creature, or host, they bite.
“As outside temperatures increase, so do the number of suspected Lyme disease cases that physicians see,” Richmond said. “That number will peak between now and August, but the risk of Lyme disease doesnt disappear until the cold weather of late fall sets in. In the meantime, be careful to avoid tick bites and be alert for the warning signs of Lyme disease.”
• After coming inside, carefully examine yourself and your children for ticks, paying particular attention to the groin, armpits, scalp and the backs of legs, arms and neck.
• When showering, use a washcloth. This can help to dislodge any loose ticks as they generally spend several hours on the body before attaching.
• If you find a tick, grasp it firmly (preferably with tweezers) as close to the skin as possible and apply firm, backward pressure to pull it out. Then clean the area with soap, water and a topical antiseptic.
“If bitten, keep an eye out for Lyme diseases telltale bulls-eye rash – a pale center surrounded by a bright red rim – that could indicate an infection,” he warned.
“If you develop other symptoms, such as fatigue, headache, stiff neck, fever and muscle and joint pain, contact your physician immediately. Antibiotics are very effective against Lyme disease and, if taken in the early stages of infection, will usually result in a cure within a few weeks, however the longer a person goes without treatment, the harder it is to cure this disease.”
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