With Lyme disease increasing in New Jersey, avoiding tick bites is more crucial than ever

Source: North Jersey.com
More New Jerseyans were diagnosed with Lyme disease last year than in the last 17 years, with record numbers of cases in Bergen, Morris, Monmouth, Ocean and six other counties, new state data shows.
With May, June and July known to be the peak months for deer ticks that transmit the disease, U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez and state Health Commissioner Shereef Elnahal held a press conference Monday to call attention to the disease and how to avoid becoming infected. They gathered in Parsippany near woods and hiking trails that are a perfect breeding grounds for ticks, which feed on the blood of tiny white-footed mice and become infected with Lyme. The ticks then attach themselves to other animals and inject them with the disease-causing bacteria.
“With tick-borne illnesses rapidly spreading, we must act quickly,” Sen. Menendez said.”That funding can be used to trace cases, treat infections and help communities with prevention.” He added that Congress approved $900 million in increased funding this year for the federal Centers for Disease Control, “and I’ll be really ‘ticked off’ if those dollars don’t reach New Jersey until well after the 2018 tick season is over.”
The most effective prevention for Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses is to avoid being bitten, Elnahal said. “As we approach Memorial Day weekend, when more of us will be enjoying parks to hike and play with our kids, it is important for parents to remember to perform daily ‘tick checks’ on their children, their pets and themselves,” he said. He outlined these additional steps:

– Limit exposure to tick-infested areas, such as tall grass and scrubby landscapes.
– Keep grass short and underbrush thinned at your home.
– Apply EPA-registered insect repellent on your skin, clothing, boots and camping gear when outdoors to prevent ticks from getting on your body.
– Wear light-colored clothes to help you spot ticks easily.
– Tuck pants into socks to keep ticks from getting under your clothes.
– Check your body for ticks and shower within two hours of being outdoors.

If you find a tick, carefully remove it with fine-pointed tweezers. Grasp it by the mouth parts closest to the skin and pull it steadily outward. Do not use petroleum jelly, noxious chemicals or hot objects. The sooner the tick is removed, the less likely it is to transmit disease.
The initial bite usually causes a red, itchy reaction similar to a mosquito bite, said Dr. John Halperin, chairman of the neuroscience department at Overlook Medical Center in Summit. After that, the site of the bite develops a bull’s-eye rash that expands outward day after day, he said.
Lyme disease symptoms appear in three to 30 days. Besides the rash, which is not present in all cases, symptoms can include chills, fever, headache and muscle pain. If it is caught early, antibiotics are a successful treatment. Advanced cases can affect the central nervous system, heart and joints.

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