Preventing Lyme disease and tick bites: tips from the CDC

Individuals have a higher risk of tick bites and tickborne diseases from May through July.
Individuals have a higher risk of tick bites and tickborne diseases from May through July.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released a toolkit to help individuals protect themselves against Lyme and other tickborne diseases, which are more prevalent from May through July.

More than 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported each year, according to the CDC, although studies have shown that the actual number of people diagnosed with Lyme disease is estimated to be about 300,000. The risk is greatest in New England, the mid-Atlantic states, and the upper Midwest.

The CDC notes that it can be difficult to predict the number of Lyme disease or other tickborne infections. “Ticks that spread disease to people can have up to 2- to 3-year lifecycles, and many factors can affect their numbers, including temperature, rainfall, humidity, and the amount of available hosts for the ticks to feed on, such as mice, deer and other animals,” the agency stated. “In any given year, the number of ticks in an area will be different from region to region, state to state, and even county to county.”

Other tickborne diseases include Rocky Mountain spotted fever, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, Powassan virus, and babesiosis. The best defense against these tickborne infections is to take steps to protect against tick bites.

To prevent against getting a tick bite, the CDC recommends the following:

  • Avoid high grass and leaf litter and walk in the center of hiking trails.
  • Use repellent that contains 20% or more DEET, picaridin, or IR3535 on exposed skin.
  • Use products that contain permethrin to treat clothing and gear, including boots, pants, socks, and tents, or look for clothing pretreated with permethrin.
  • Treat dogs for ticks using tick collars, sprays, shampoos, or monthly “top spot” medications.
  • Bathe or shower after coming indoors to wash off and easily find any crawling ticks.
  • Conduct a full-body tick check using hand-held or full-length mirror. Parents should also help children check thoroughly for ticks. Remove any ticks right away.
  • Dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing. 

Individuals who live in high-risk areas should also be alert for an unexpected summer fever or odd rash, as these may be the first signs of Lyme disease.  Individuals with these symptoms should contact their healthcare provider.

For more information about preventing Lyme disease, visit the CDC's website.

Reference

  1. Lyme and other tickborne diseases. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published May 4, 2017. Accessed May 5, 2017.
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