The warmer weather of spring means an increased risk of tickborne disease transmission. In an effort to help prevent the increased spread of disease, the month of May has been recognized as Tickborne Disease Awareness Month.
The growing number and spread of tickborne diseases poses an increased risk in the U.S. A recent report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), found the number of reported tickborne diseases more than doubled in the past 13 years and from 2004 through 2016, seven new germs spread through the bite of an infected tick were discovered or recognized in the U.S. as being able to infect people.
“Maryland is vulnerable, but we are working very hard to educate the public and reduce the threat,” said Dr. Howard Haft, Deputy Secretary, Public Health Services, Maryland Department of Health. “Through awareness, our goal is to reduce human exposure to ticks, prevent tick bites, and to prevent Marylanders from acquiring tickborne illnesses.”
Lyme disease is the most commonly reported tickborne disease in Maryland. In 2016, nearly 1,900 cases of Lyme disease were reported in the state. Symptoms of Lyme disease include a rash (which might look like a bull’s eye), fever, headache, joint pain, and fatigue. If left untreated, the disease may spread to the joints and nervous system. Contact your healthcare provider if any of these symptoms develop after a known tick bite or after spending time in a tick habitat. Most cases can be cured with antibiotics.
In addition to Lyme disease, ticks can transmit babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and tularemia.
The best way to avoid tickborne diseases is to avoid ticks and their habitat. Ticks prefer humid environments and can be found outdoors in the leaf litter, weeds, tall grasses, shrubs, and woods. To prevent tick exposure and tick bites:
•Use insect repellents such as DEET, picaridin, or IR3535
•Perform a “tick check” on yourself, children, and pets after being outside in tick habitat
•Treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks, and tents, with products containing 0.5 percent permethrin or purchase pre-treated clothing
•Wear light colored clothing to help spot ticks more easily
•Wear long pants and sleeves to help keep ticks off of your body and tuck your pants into your socks or boots
•Stick to the path when hiking and avoid brushy areas and tall grasses where ticks are more likely to be present
•Shower as soon as possible after coming back indoors to wash away unattached ticks on your body
•Dry your clothes on high for 10 minutes once you get home to kill any ticks on clothing
•Discuss how to protect your pets from ticks with your veterinarian
Spring is the start of tick season, but Marylanders should continue to check for ticks after outdoor activities through the fall.
To learn more about how to protect yourself, family members and pets from tickborne diseases, visit the Maryland Department of Health’s website: health.maryland.gov/tick.