Cotati, CA.- May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month and the Marin/Sonoma Mosquito and Vector Control District (District) has encouraging news regarding this serious and debilitating disease: It is preventable.
"Knowledge is power," stated Nizza Sequeira, Public Relations Director for the District. "Understanding how the disease is transmitted, using the correct personal protection measures and properly removing ticks are the keys to lowering the risk of becoming infected," said Sequeira.
Lyme disease is transmitted by the bite of an infected tick, specifically the western black-legged tick (Ixodes pacificus). These ticks are most often found in grassy, brushy, or wooded areas, especially along the sides of trails. Ticks do not fly, jump, or fall out of trees. Adult ticks wait on the tips of vegetation for a host to pass by, while the much smaller nymphs, which can also transmit Lyme disease, are commonly found in leaf litter or on logs and branches. After a tick grasps onto a host, it will crawl in search of a suitable location to attach to the skin and begin feeding.
District officials stress the importance of taking personal protection measuresprior to, during and after being in tick habitat. Personal protection measures include:
- Wear light-colored clothing with long sleeves and long pants.
- Apply repellent containing DEET (at least 20% concentration) on exposed skin.
- Stay on designated trails.
- Periodically check yourself for ticks while in nature.
- Shower after being in tick habitat to help detect ticks. Continue to periodically check your body for several days after you have been in tick habitat. Pay close attention to the hairline, waistline, armpits, and other places where clothing is constricted. Carefully examine children and pets as well.
- Remove ticks promptly and correctly. Do not squish, burn, smother or twist ticks.
- Ideally, use tweezers to grasp the head of the tick as close to the skin as possible, and pull it straight out.
- Wash your hands and the bite site with soap and water after tick removal.
Symptoms of Lyme disease may include an expanding "bulls-eye" rash usually accompanied by flu-like symptoms, such as body aches and fever. If you become ill after being bitten by a tick, consult your physician.
If Lyme disease is left untreated, the infection may spread to other parts of the body, with many patients experiencing severe pain and swelling associated with arthritis. Untreated patients may also develop cardiac or chronic neurological problems, such as numbness or tingling in the hands or feet and short term memory loss.