From the Harford County Health Department:
Spring has finally returned to Harford County and residents already are engaging in their favorite outdoor activities like camping, hiking, fishing, golfing, and working in the yard. Unknown to many, however, is that simply by enjoying these activities or working out of doors, they will put themselves at risk for Lyme disease, the most common vector borne disease in the United States.
Lyme disease, named after the towns of Lyme and Old Lyme, Connecticut, US, where a number of cases were first identified in 1975, is recognized as a disease that was often misdiagnosed and widely under reported by physicians. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) previously recorded the number of diagnosed and probable cases at around 45,000 annually.
While this is a large number when compared to other vector borne diseases like West Nile Virus, a landmark moment in the history of Lyme disease came in August of 2013 when the CDC announced that the real number of Lyme disease cases nationwide probably approaches some 300,000 annually.
Lyme disease researchers and physicians label Lyme disease a peridomestic disease, meaning the disease is acquired around the home. That is, individuals don’t have to travel very far to be infected by the bite of a blacklegged tick. With this in mind, the Harford County Health Department wants Harford County residents to be “tick aware”, even in areas they may not consider themselves to be at risk. This means being more attentive from springtime through fall, when gardening, doing yard work or when recreating near wooded or grassy areas.
The best defense against Lyme disease is prevention. To disseminate the message of tick-borne disease prevention and awareness, the Health Department has partnered with the Harford County Public Library, and Harford Lyme Advocates, the local chapter of the National Capital Lyme Association. Throughout the month of May, educational materials will be on display at all eleven branches of the Harford County Public Library. David Reiher, Vector Control Specialist with the Health Department’s Environmental Health Services Division, recommends taking all the following measures:
• Wear lightly colored clothing on which ticks can be more easily spotted.
• Treat clothing with Permethrin that is widely available at sporting goods stores and other retail outlets. When applied properly it is very effective against ticks and can last from 5-30 clothes washings.
• Use 20-30% DEET on exposed skin. Often used for mosquitos, DEET is also known as “Off”, “Repel”, and “Cutter”.
• Avoid tick habitat. Move swing sets and other recreation areas away from woodland edges and areas of tall grass and weeds.
• Do frequent tick checks; Parents should check themselves and, especially, children after outdoor activities. Use a magnifying glass and bright lighting. Nymph stages of ticks are very small and are not easily seen.
• Remove attached ticks promptly and properly. A tick removed within 24 hours is much less likely to cause an infection. To remove properly, use fine tipped tweezers, grasp the tick by the mouthparts and head and apply slow and steady pressure.
For more information, visit the Harford County website, www.harfordcountyhealth.com. Interested civic or community organizations are invited to call 410-877-2315 to schedule a Lyme disease awareness and prevention presentation, typically 30-45 minutes in length,. Additionally, visit the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at: www.cdc.gov/lyme/.