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Lyme Disease: What to Do if You Find a Tick

East Shore District Health Department in Branford offers the following tips for safeguarding against Lyme disease, including a reminder to send embedded ticks in for testing.

According to state statistics provided by East Shore District Health Department located in Branford, there were 3,041 cases of Lyme disease in the state during 2011.

Last year there were 24 cases of Lyme Disease in the ESDHD’s three-town purview – more than half of them coming from Branford; four cases were from East Haven and seven from North Branford. The most susceptible population, ESDHD said, is boys, ages five to nine according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Alex Cinotti, Assistant Director for ESDHD said, “Our goal has always been to reduce this number [of cases] to a negligible amount; zero hopefully.”

So what do you do if you expect a tick you’ve found may be carrying Lyme disease? You should send it off to the health department for free testing and monitor health condition for signs of illness.

According to the state Department of Health, the most common sign of Lyme disease is the telltale bull’s eye ring that forms around the bite area. This expanding red rash can vary in shape and size and can be warm to the touch. Early symptoms also include fever and/or chills, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, stiff neck and headache. “Left untreated, Lyme disease infection can worsen and include symptoms involving joint swelling (Lyme arthritis), neurologic and cardiac complications, according to the DPH.

Cinotti and Rita Foster, Public Health Nurse, encourage residents to save all ticks found embedded in the skin to send off for testing. Because it’s difficult to spot the difference between a deer tick that could carry Lyme disease and a dog tick that does not, all ticks should be sent in, they stated. Here in Branford, you can drop ticks off at ESDHD offices, 14 Business Park Dr.; 203-481-4233;www.esdhd.org.

If you find a tick on your clothing or crawling on your body and it hasn’t burrowed itself into your skin, it does not need to be sent in for testing, added Foster. Also ticks have to be in your skin for at least 24 hours to contract Lyme disease, said Foster, adding that there’s no way or really telling how long a tick has been burrowed inside for sure. Err on the side of caution, she said, and send an tick found embedded into the skin.

Place a suspected tick in a sealed plastic baggie and bring to your local health department. The tick will be sent to the state for testing and residents will be notified of the results via mail. In the meantime, residents who suspect they may have contracted Lyme disease should see a doctor immediately.

“Ticks,” said Cinotti, “do not jump, fly or drop from trees but grab passing hosts from leaf litter or tips of grass.” To protect against Lyme disease, the number one thing to do is keep extremities covered when venturing into wooded areas or spending extended periods of time outdoors.

ESDHD Lyme Guide

How soon do symptoms appear?
The early symptoms of Lyme disease usually occur within the first month after the tick bite. Later symptoms can occur several weeks to several months later.

How is Lyme disease diagnosed?
Lyme disease may be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms can mimic many other disorders. Blood tests can be helpful in the diagnosis of Lyme disease but should not be used exclusively. It is important that medical attention be sought if Lyme disease is a suspected cause of illness.

What is the treatment for Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is easily treated when it is detected in the early stages. Treatment with oral antibiotics, such as doxycycline or amoxicillin, taken for a few weeks are often effective. Intravenous antibiotic treatment may be necessary for patients with late symptoms of Lyme disease.

How can Lyme disease be prevented?
To prevent Lyme disease and other tick-borne infections, the best protection is to avoid contact with ticks. When working or playing outside in areas that ticks inhabit (tall grass and weeds, scrubby areas, woods and leaf litter) you should:

  • Wear light colored clothing (to spot the ticks easily), long sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Create a “tick barrier” by tucking pants into socks and shirt into pants.
  • Consider using insect repellent, according to manufacturer’s instructions, when planning to be outdoors.
  • Check clothing and skin very carefully (especially thighs, groin, arms, underarms, legs and scalp) after being outdoors in tick infested areas and remove any ticks promptly.
  • Wash the area with soap and water and apply an antiseptic when the tick has been removed. Write on a calendar the date you removed the tick and the area of the body from which it was removed. Check that area every day for a month for a red ring-like rash. Be aware of any flu-like symptoms that may appear.
  • Keep your lawn mowed, cut overgrown brush, and clear any leaf litter away from the home.
  • Inspect pets daily and remove any ticks found.

How should a tick be removed?

  • It is important that a tick is removed as soon as it is discovered.
  • Remove the tick as soon as possible using tweezers. Grasp the tick mouth parts as close to the skin as possible and pull the tick out with steady pressure. Do not yank the tick out. Do not crush the ticks body as it may contain infectious fluids.
  • Do not use petroleum jelly, hot matches, nail polish remover, or any other substance to remove a tick. By using these substances, you may actually increase your chance of infection.
  • Thoroughly wash the area of the bite with soap and water and put an antiseptic on it.
  • Check after every 2 to 3 hours of outdoor activity for ticks attached to clothing or skin.
  • The sooner the tick is removed, the lesser the risk of tick-borne infection.
  • Write on the calendar the date you removed the tick and the part of the body it was removed from.

Contact your physician for recommendations on testing and treatment. 

Donna Lorello September 18, 2012 at 10:36 AM
I was diagnosed with Lyme back in '95 when little was really known about it. I was glad the PA I had thought to err on the side of caution and started me on Doxycycline while my blood tests were being processed. I had symptoms of a summer flu and didn't show the rash until a couple weeks after symptoms started. Even though I had three separate Lyme titers done (when I first went in with symptoms, during the progress and after I showed the rash), all came up negative. I still worry about long term effects. All these years later and we still do not have a reliable test for this disease. I hope Sen. Blumenthal is able to get this changed. Even though I was lucky to be treated immediately. Lyme Disease is a mimic and this makes it hard to get an exact diagnosis unless we have a thorough and reliable test. How many people are out there that were misdiagnosed and didn't get proper treatment. I was one lucky and very grateful.
Richard Pollack September 18, 2012 at 11:31 AM
For those who desire an answer about their tick (or other pest) more quickly, they may capture digital images and upload these for an expert evaluation at https://identify.us.com.
Nicole Ball September 18, 2012 at 04:17 PM
Even though summer months are the highest for contracting Lyme, I remember always finding ticks on my clothes during the fall, after jumping in leaf piles.' What are your tips for guarding against ticks?
Alexander Davis September 18, 2012 at 07:24 PM
Our epidemic of Lyme disease is unnecessary. In 2003 it was shown that the residents of Monhegan Island Maine had ended their Lyme epidemic by eliminating the deer. Deer were removed from 1996-1999, and by 2003 the tick life cycle could no longer be sustained on the island. This is because the adult egg-laying tick feeds almost exclusively on deer. Thus, removing the deer disrupts the tick life cycle. Estimates are that ticks from one deer produce from 450,000 to 1,000,000 tick eggs per season. Experts say that the deer population must be reduced to 6-8 deer/square mile in order to have a meaningful reduction in tick density. Although we may live near Lyme-infected mice, they are no threat to us without ticks. Mice cannot host adult egg-laying ticks, and the immature ticks on the mice develop from eggs, 95% of which come from ticks on deer. It is time we followed Monhegan's example and end the epidemic of Lyme disease plus babesiosis and anaplasmosis, both of which can be fatal.
Dave Evans September 19, 2012 at 01:07 PM
Lyme isn't recognised as a disease in Australia :(

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