New York State Department of Health Urges New Yorkers to Take Precautions Against Tick-borne Illness In Recognition of Tick Bite Prevention Week March 24-30

Simple Precautions Can Prevent Illness Caused by Infected Ticks, Including Lyme Disease

ALBANY, N.Y. (March 27, 2023) – The New York State Department of Health urges New Yorkers to take precautions to avoid illnesses spread by ticks in recognition of Tick Bite Prevention Week, which takes place March 24-30.

Even though ticks are still active in cooler temperatures, the arrival of spring and approaching warmer weather mean ticks will become more prevalent. Bites from an infected tick can transmit several diseases, including the bacterial infection Lyme disease, the most commonly-reported tick-borne disease in the State.

"As New Yorkers return to outdoor activities, it's important to take precautions to protect against diseases that can be transmitted by infected ticks," Acting State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said. "Ticks can be found outdoors in most areas of New York, and the best way to prevent infections that can cause serious illness and debilitating symptoms is to follow practical methods to avoid being bitten."

Lyme disease is caused by bacteria transmitted by infected blacklegged (deer) ticks (both nymphs and adults), which are most active when temperatures are above freezing. Lyme disease can affect people of any age and is spread when an infected tick bites a person and remains attached for 36 hours or more.

The most common symptom of Lyme disease is an expanding rash resembling a bull's eye or solid patch, that appears near the site of a bite. Flu-like symptoms such as fever or chills and muscle aches, headache, or fatigue may also occur within 30 days of infection. If these symptoms develop, it's important to seek treatment from a health care provider immediately.

Over the last 10 years, the State has averaged more than 6,700 new cases of Lyme disease each year, with more than 8,000 cases reported in 2019 alone. Tick bites can also transmit other diseases. Since 2015, the Department has reported an average of 511 babesiosis infections and an average of 1,014 anaplasmosis infections each year, as well as cases of more rare diseases such as ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Powassan encephalitis. All these diseases can vary in severity, but without treatment, they can cause serious illness and even death.

In 2018, the Asian longhorned tick was identified in New York State for the first time and has now been found in several locations in New York City, Long Island and the Lower Hudson Valley. While this tick has transmitted disease to humans in other parts of the world, more research is needed to determine whether this can occur in the United States. To date, the Department has tested more than 2,000 of these ticks and has not found disease-causing agents. However, New Yorkers should continue to take measures to protect themselves, their children, and their pets against all ticks and tick-borne diseases that are present in New York State.

The optimal way to prevent tick bites and possible infection is to take simple and effective precautions, especially when hiking, working, or spending time in wooded or grassy areas:

  • Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts.
  • Keep long hair tied back, especially when gardening.
  • Check for ticks often while outdoors and brush them away before they attach.
  • Perform a full body check multiple times during the day, as well as at the end of the day, to ensure that no ticks are attached.
  • Tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing after you come indoors. If the clothes are damp, additional time may be needed.
  • Shower soon after coming indoors.
  • Consider using repellents containing DEET, picaridin, or IR3535, and follow label instructions.

If a tick is found on the body, it should be removed immediately, preferably with fine point tweezers. The tick should be grasped as close as possible to its attachment to the skin and removed by pulling upward with steady, even pressure. It is important not to squeeze the body of the tick. The bite area should then be cleaned with rubbing alcohol or soap and water. If the tick's mouthparts break off and remain in the skin, they can be left alone to dry up and fall out by themselves, as the mouthparts alone cannot transmit disease.

The Department and its partners routinely collect and analyze ticks from across the state to better understand the tick population, tick behavior, and regional trends in diseases carried by ticks. Current and retrospective tick collection and testing results are publicly available on the Department's Health Data NY website.

Additional information about preventing Lyme disease is available on the Department's Be Tick Free - A Guide for Preventing Lyme Disease website.

Educational videos about ticks, including tick repellents and tick removal, as well as information about other diseases spread by ticks, is available here.