"Be Tick Free" for a Healthy Summer

State Health Department Encourages People to Take Steps to Prevent Lyme Disease

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 17, 2011) – State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah, M.D., M.P.H., is reminding people that Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases can cause serious health conditions, and people should take precautions during warmer months to protect themselves from being bitten by disease-carrying ticks.

"Lyme disease can be found in outdoor areas across New York, and if a person is bitten by an infected tick, they can suffer serious illness," said Commissioner Shah. "The State Health Department works in coordination with local health departments to help New Yorkers learn about the disease and what precautions they should take to avoid being bitten by ticks."

New York typically reports the highest number of Lyme disease cases in the nation. While there are year-to-year variations, New York State averages more than 5,500 new Lyme diseases cases each year.

The State Department of Health's (DOH) annual "Be Tick Free" education and awareness campaign seeks to prevent the spread of Lyme and other tick-borne disease.

Lyme disease is caused by the bite of an infected deer tick (Ixodes scapularis).Ticks are active when the weather stays above freezing, usually from April through November. The time of greatest concern is in late spring and early summer when nymphal ticks are active. In the nymphal stage of life, deer ticks are small (about the size of a poppy seed) and difficult to see. Nymphal deer ticks are responsible for the majority of Lyme disease cases. In tick-infested areas, any contact with vegetation, even playing in a well-manicured yard, can result in exposure to ticks.

To help avoid tick bites, DOH recommends:

  • Wear light-colored clothing (to spot ticks) and tuck pants into socks and shirt into pants in tick-infested habitats such as wooded and grassy areas.
  • Check for ticks on clothing or skin after every two to three hours outdoors, and brush off ticks on clothing before they can attach to your skin. Also, check your children and pets for ticks.
  • Check your entire body for ticks at the end of the day.
  • Always read and carefully follow the instructions on insect repellent product labels.
  • Do not apply repellents directly to children. Apply to your own hands and then put it on the child.
  • Products containing permethrin should be applied to clothing (not skin), and the clothing should be treated before it is put on the body.
  • Do not assume that repellents will provide complete protection from ticks.

Although it may not be possible to create a totally tick-free zone, taking these precautions will greatly reduce the tick population in your yard:

  • Keep grass mowed.
  • Remove leaf litter, brush and weeds at the edge of the lawn.
  • Restrict the use of groundcover, such as pachysandra, in areas frequented by family and roaming pets.
  • Remove brush and leaves around stonewalls and wood piles.
  • Discourage rodent activity. Clean up and seal stonewalls and small openings around the home.
  • Move firewood piles and bird feeders away from the house.
  • Manage pet activity; keep dogs and cats out of the woods to reduce ticks brought into the home.
  • Use plantings that do not attract deer (contact your local Cooperative Extension or garden center for suggestions), or exclude deer through fencing.
  • Move children's swing sets and sand boxes away from the woodland edge and place them on a wood chip or mulch type foundation.
  • Trim tree branches and shrubs around the lawn edge to let in more sunlight.
  • Adopt dryer or less water-demanding landscaping techniques with gravel pathways and mulches. Create a 3-foot or wider wood chip, mulch, or gravel border between lawn and woods or stone walls.
  • Widen woodland trails.
  • If you consider a pesticide application as a targeted treatment, do not use any pesticide near streams or any body of water, as it may kill aquatic life or pollute the water itself.

Contact your local health department or visit the DOH web site at: http://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/lyme/ to obtain more information about the use of repellents, how to do a tick check, how to remove a tick, and the symptoms of tick-borne diseases.