May 30, 2013
Concord, NH – The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Division of Public Health Services (DPHS) is reminding residents that tick season is upon us once again and that people should take precautions to prevent being bitten by ticks and potentially exposed to Lyme disease or other illnesses. There were 1,301 cases of Lyme identified in the State in 2011 and 1,460 in 2012, which is an increase but still less than 2008, when 1,600 cases were reported. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were 24,364 cases in the United States in 2011, which is down from the high in 2009 of almost 30,000, and New Hampshire has one of the highest incidence rates in the country (ranked 3rd highest in 2011).
Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdoferi and is transmitted to people by the bite of an infected black-legged tick (also known as the deer tick). The greatest risk for Lyme is between the months of May and August when the black-legged tick is in the juvenile stage; it’s the size of a poppy seed and very difficult to detect, so individuals may be unaware they have been bitten. Ticks that transmit Lyme can also transmit other diseases, such as anaplasmosis and babesiosis. Although not as common as Lyme, both diseases can also cause illness.
"We cannot afford to become complacent about the issue of tick-borne diseases," said DPHS Director of Public Health Dr. José Montero. "It is very encouraging that the number of cases of Lyme disease has decreased since 2008, but a high proportion of ticks in New Hampshire are infected so we want everyone to consistently take the necessary precautions to protect themselves and their families from becoming ill from this and other diseases."
Symptoms of Lyme disease include fever, headache, fatigue, and often a skin rash that is round and/or looks like a bullseye. Lyme disease is treatable with antibiotics, but if left untreated can lead to severe headaches and neck pain caused by meningitis (inflammation of the spinal cord), pain and swelling in the large joints, shooting pains that may interfere with sleep, and heart palpitations and dizziness.
DHHS recommends taking the following precautions to prevent tick bites:
- Avoid tick-infested areas such as overgrown grass, brush, and leaf litter
- Use insect repellent labeled as effective against ticks
- Wear protective clothing (long pants and long sleeves to keep ticks off skin)
- Do tick checks on yourself and family members after being outdoors
- Reduce ticks around your home by keeping grass short and removing leaf litter
- Speak with your healthcare provider if you are bitten by a tick or if you notice a large round rash anywhere on you.
For more information about Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases, visit the DHHS website at www.dhhs.nh.gov/dphs/cdcs/lyme/index.htm or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website at www.cdc.gov/ticks/index.html.