May Is Lyme Disease Awareness Month – Now Do Something About It!

There's ticks in them thar lawns!
There's ticks in them thar lawns! Photo: Schlegelfotos/iStock/Thinkstock

The month of May is dedicated to spreading awareness of Lyme disease. We’re halfway through, so now’s the time to start thinking about what you can do.

May was chosen because studies show large numbers of individuals develop the illness during this month. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 300,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year. Brian Kelly, an advocate for safety and prevention against ticks and mosquitos, and owner of East End Tick & Mosquito Control, aims to decrease the number of tick-related illness on the East End of Long Island.

“It seems that the polar vortex and freezing temperatures did not kill off the ticks as many had hoped,” Kelly said. “I have flagged for ticks a few times over the past weeks and the population has not decreased.”

According to the New York Department of Health, ticks are most active late spring through mid-August. Ticks begin seeking hosts when temperatures average 40 degrees. Though deer are often thought to be the main carriers, experts are now finding that mice are frequent carriers of Lyme disease, as well. According to the 2014 Journal Ecology, mice are effective transmitters of Lyme disease because they are permissive to the infection and are extremely resilient to ecological changes, such as severe weather and disasters. “Early May is the opportune time to set up a prevention schedule for your property to be sure Lyme Disease doesn’t have a change to affect your family,” Kelly said.

Lyme Disease Awareness Month, as designated by the Lyme Disease Foundation, is a campaign meant to promote taking preventative measures against Lyme disease. The importance of Lyme Disease Awareness Month continues to grow as the number of reported cases of Lyme disease in the United States increases each year. In 2012, the CDC listed New York as a top contender for Lyme disease occurrences. In fact, the CDC states 96 percent of Lyme disease cases were reported from only 13 states, which include New York and surrounding states like Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Connecticut. The most heavily affected regions, including Long Island’s East End, are home to a tick population with half of all its inhabitants infected.

Lyme disease is an acute inflammatory bacterial infection caused by an infectious tick bite. In most cases, the tick must be attached 36-48 hours or more before the Lyme disease bacterium can be transmitted. Lyme disease is most commonly found in children age 5 to 14. Early symptoms include a “bull’s eye” rash, chills, fatigue, headache, muscle pain and swollen nymph nodes. Untreated infections can lead to serious complications such as arthritis, heart and nervous system disorders, Bell’s palsy, miscarriages, stillborn births and meningitis.

Recognizing a tick bite that has transmitted Lyme disease is very important. A few days to a week after a tick bite, a small red bump may appear at the site of the bite. It may feel warm and tender to the touch. If the tick bite has transmitted Lyme disease, the redness may expand over the next couple weeks and form a round or oval red rash, usually bigger than 5 centimeters in size. This rash appears in about 70-80 percent of people.

It’s time to take action against Lyme disease by protecting your property and family from ticks. To truly get in the spirit of Lyme Disease Awareness Month, spread the word and consider ways to improve the situation here on the East End. For starters, pass this article along on Facebook and Twitter!

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