Every spring individuals that return to enjoy the outdoors know that ticks can be a nuisance, but they can also be carriers of Lyme disease. The chances that you might get Lyme disease from a single tick bite depend on the type of tick, where you acquired it, and how long it was attached to you. For those of us living in Ocean County, it’s only the blacklegged tick that transmits the bacteria that cause Lyme disease.
“Blacklegged ticks, also known as deer ticks, need to be attached for at least 24 hours before they can transmit Lyme disease,” said Daniel Regenye, Ocean County Health Department Public Health Coordinator/Health Officer. “This is why it’s so important to remove them as soon as possible and to check your body daily for ticks if you enjoy spending time in your yard, garden, hiking or recreating in wooded, brushy and tall grass areas. Don’t forget pets should also be examined for ticks.”
Timely diagnosis and treatment are important to prevent infection from spreading to other parts of the body, and to reduce the risk of persistent symptoms after treatment. Many people with early-stage Lyme disease may develop a distinctive circular rash at the site of the tick bite, usually around three to 30 days after being bitten The rash may appear to look like a bull’s-eye on a dartboard. Some of the common symptoms are as follows:
Lyme is the most common disease in the United States resulting from an infection transmitted to humans by blood feeders such as ticks, mosquitoes and fleas. New Jersey has some of the highest rates of Lyme disease in the Northeast, however, cases in Ocean County were on the decline from 2017-2019, according to Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.
The best protection is prevention. The following are some important tips that can help keep you safe:
Treat clothing and gear with products containing 0.5% permethrin. Permethrin can be used to treat boots, clothing and camping gear and remain protective through several washings. Alternatively, you can buy permethrin-treated clothing and gear.
Check your clothing for ticks. Ticks may be carried into the house on clothing. Any ticks that are found should be removed. Tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing after you come indoors. If the clothes require washing first, hot water is recommended. Cold and medium temperature water will not kill ticks.
Examine gear and pets. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets, then attach to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats, and daypacks.
Shower soon after being outdoors. Showering within two hours of coming indoors has been shown to reduce your risk of getting Lyme disease and may be effective in reducing the risk of other tick-borne diseases. Showering may help wash off unattached ticks and it is a good opportunity to do a tick check.
Check your body for ticks after being outdoors. Conduct a full body check upon return from potentially tick-infested areas, including your own backyard. Use a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body. Check these parts of your body and your child’s body for ticks:
- Under the arms
- In and around the ears
- Inside belly button
- Back of the knees
- In and around the hair
- Between the legs
- Around the waist
“If you suspect you’ve been bitten by a tick and develop any symptoms don’t hesitate to contact your health care provider,” added Regenye. “Patients treated with antibiotics in the early stages of the infection usually recover rapidly and completely. Most patients who are treated in later stages of the disease also respond well to antibiotics, although some may have suffered long-term damage to the nervous system or joints.”
For more information on tick bite prevention, please click on the Ocean County Health Department website at www.ochd.org. You can also follow the Ocean County Health Department on Twitter @OCpublichealth or like us on Facebook. Download the Ocean County Health Department mobile app free from the Google Play/Android and Apple APP stores.