OSWEGO — Incidence of Lyme disease and percentage of infected ticks in Oswego County have increased drastically over the past few years. As the temperature warms and people are spending more time in outdoor activities, the Oswego County Health Department would like to remind residents to take precautions to prevent tick bites.
“New York state has one of the highest Lyme disease incidence in the nation. Oswego County has seen a significant increase of Lyme disease cases in recent years,” said Jiancheng Huang, Oswego County Public Health Director.
Based on the most recent annual data, human cases in Oswego County increased to 249 cases in 2019 from 149 cases in 2018. That represents a 67% increase.
According to the SUNY Center for Vector-borne Diseases at Upstate Medical University, which started to provide free tick testing service in April 2019, 78 ticks from Oswego County were sent for testing between April 2019 and March 2020. Among them, 38.5% of ticks were infected. Between April 2020 and March 2021, 151 ticks from Oswego County were sent for testing, and among them, 43% of ticks were infected.
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted by the bite of an infected deer tick. Ticks transmit disease in two of their life stages: nymph (the immature) and adult. Nymph-stage deer ticks are active from May through July, and adult deer ticks are active in fall. Common habitats for the deer tick are leaf litter in wooded areas, grassy areas along wooded edges, and low bushes and shrubs. Deer ticks are not commonly found on athletic fields and cut lawns. Lyme disease can cause serious health problems if not caught early and treated properly.
The CDC recommends people take these steps to help prevent Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases:
— Wear repellent. Apply Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone, and follow the product instructions before going out.
— Avoid tall grasses and bushy, wooded areas when out.
— Treat clothing and gear with products containing 0.5% permethrin
— Check for ticks daily. Check for yourself, children, and dogs after returning from outdoor activities. The longer a tick is attached, the higher the risk of getting Lyme disease.
— Shower soon after being outdoors
— Call a doctor if a person gets a fever or rash.
Ticks love humid, wooded areas and die rapidly in dry and sunny environments. The following tips from the CDC may help make backyards, parks, and playgrounds tick-safe zones:
— Clear all leaf litter, tall grasses, and brush around a home and the edges of a lawn.
— Wood chips restrict tick migration. Place them between lawns and wooded areas.
— Mow lawn regularly. Clear brush and leaf litter often.
— If people have a bird feeder, keep the area below it clean.
— Make sure wood is neatly stacked in dry areas.
— Place playground equipment, patios, and decks away from yard edges and trees.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends tick checks are performed in two ways — physical inspections or feeling for ticks, because ticks are tiny; and visual inspections, looking for nymph and adult ticks. By feeling for ticks, you may discover ticks in hidden areas such as behind your knee or in your armpit, where you wouldn’t be able to see them easily.
To conduct a full body check, pay particular attention to these parts of a body for ticks: under the arms; in and around the ears; inside the belly button; back of the knees; in and around the hair; between the legs; and around the waist.
Parents need to check their children carefully whenever they’ve been outdoors. Also, parents need to educate children not to remove ticks by themselves.
To check pets for ticks, include these places on a dog: in and around the ears; around the eyelids; under the collar; around the tail; under the front legs; between the back legs; and between the toes.
If a dog is vaccinated against Lyme disease, people still need to do tick checks because ticks on the dog can attach to a new host.
If people find a tick attached, they need to use tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible, then perpendicularly pull away from the skin, wash the area with soap, and apply topical antiseptic. The state Department of Health developed a video to show how to remove a tick on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oGrK4ZKUfhQ.
If people want to get the tick they caught to be tested, they can go to https://nyticks.org/ to find out how to submit the tick to the lab. The testing is free of charge. People need only to pay for the postage. Follow the instructions on the website to pack and mail the tick to the lab. Results will be shared with the submitter via email.