While it seems as if spring is playing hide-and-seek with us, it is definitely here. It’s finally time to be outdoors again and that also means that tick season is back. Unfortunately, really cold winters seem to do little to reduce the tick population.
Peak tick season is from April to September, so as we enter the busy tick season, awareness is important.
Lyme disease is the most common tick-transmitted disease, but there are others as well, including anaplasmosis, babeseosis, ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and the Powassan virus. Most cases of Lyme disease are associated with the nymphal stage of the deer tick. Nymphs are small (about the size of a pinhead), are difficult to spot, and are active during the late spring and summer months, when families are outdoors.
According to a 2011 study from the Centers for Disease Control, 96% of reported cases of Lyme disease occurred in 13 states, and Connecticut ranked at the top of that list. The CDC has also singled out Lyme disease as the most common and fastest growing vector-borne infectious disease in the country. At this time, there are no vaccines to prevent Lyme disease or co-infections from occurring in the United States, and available diagnostic tools have proven to be unreliable. In addition, many sufferers of tick-borne illnesses are unaware they are even victims of these diseases due to a lack of understanding of the symptoms.
The most common symptom is a red, expanding rash known as a bull’s-eye rash. It occurs in 70% to 80% of people and begins at the site of a tick bite three to 30 days later, although seven days is average.
Other symptoms include rashes on other parts of the body, facial or Bell’s palsy (loss of muscle tone on one or both sides of the face), severe headaches and neck stiffness, pain and swelling in large joints such as the knees, shooting pains that may interfere with sleep, heart palpitations, and dizziness. While many of these symptoms will resolve by themselves over a period of weeks to months, according to the Centers for Disease Control, lack of treatment can result in additional complications.
Preventing Lyme and other tick-borne diseases is possible by wearing pants and long sleeves while outdoors, avoiding brushy and wooded areas, checking for ticks, and wearing bug spray.