By the Niagara County Department of Health
Ticks and tick-borne diseases are a public health concern in Western New York, including Niagara County. With warmer weather, ticks are actively feeding and reproducing.
“While several tick species can be found in WNY, it is the blacklegged tick (deer tick) that can transmit Lyme disease. The deer tick has spread throughout the Northeastern United States, including Western New York and Niagara County,” said Public Health Director Daniel Stapleton.
Lyme disease can be transmitted when an infected tick bites the skin and stays attached long enough (generally more than 24 hours) to inject bacteria into the bloodstream. The longer an infected tick stays attached, the more likely it will transmit Lyme disease germs.
Typical signs and symptoms of Lyme disease may include a circular “bullseye” skin rash, headache, fever and fatigue. Lyme disease is easily treated and cured with antibiotics in the early stages, but if left untreated can result in serious complications involving joints, immune system, nervous system, heart and other organs.
To avoid ticks and tick-borne disease, be informed about what ticks look like, how to protect yourself from ticks, and what to do if you find a tick on you or someone else.
·Perform daily tick checks (on both human and pet), especially if you have been exploring the outdoors.
·Take precautions by wearing light-colored, long pants tucked into your socks and a light-colored shirt tucked into pants. It is easier to spot a tick on light colored cloths.
·Use repellants to avoid ticks (in accordance with label instructions).
·Put clothes in the dryer after being outside. The dry heat from a dryer will kill ticks.
·Remove ticks safely by using sharp tweezers and grabbing the tick as close to the skin as possible, then gently pull up. Contact your doctor (or veterinarian) after removing the tick to discuss the specifics of the tick bite, so they may determine if the prescription of antibiotics is warranted.
·Submitting the tick for testing is generally not advised as treatment is based upon time of attachment. Being able to identify if the tick is a deer tick is helpful. Identification tools and additional information about Lyme disease can be found at www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/lyme/.
·Work with your veterinarian to choose the right tick prevention treatment for your pet.
The Niagara County Department of Health Environmental Health Division conducts field surveillance by dragging for ticks. The tick-dragging technique involves dragging a piece of white fabric through bushy areas and brush. Ticks collected by the staff are submitted to the state for verification and testing.
“Since it is not possible to test or eradicate all ticks, the best way to prevent Lyme disease is to take actions that prevent ticks from biting people through awareness and education,” Stapleton emphasized.