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News > Lyme disease: it’s that time of year
Lyme disease: it’s that time of year

Posted 5/20/2011   Updated 5/20/2011 Email story   Print story


by 87th Medical Group

5/20/2011 - JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. -- Headin' for the trails? Make sure you don't pick up any unwanted baggage along the way - like ticks. Be on the lookout for these pesky creatures that lurk in moist, shaded woods, low-growing brush, dense weeds or piles of leaves. Ticks can also be found sneaking around your neighborhood - even in your own backyard especially in woodpiles and areas of high grass. One bite from these little critters can cause ailments like Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is a serious but preventable tick-borne disease. Prior to the late 1970s, tick-borne diseases in New Jersey were relatively rare and not considered a major public health threat. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever was the only tick-borne disease recognized in New Jersey at the time.

The first cases of Lyme disease were reported in New Jersey in 1978 and since then, it has been the most commonly reported tick-borne disease in the United States.

Today the majority of Lyme disease cases occur in the Northeast. New Jersey consistently ranks among the states reporting the most cases. Normally, an increase is seen during the months of June through August. New Jersey reported 3,214 cases in 2008 and 4,598 cases in 2009. The 87th Medical Group officials reported nine cases in 2009 and 14 in 2010.

The disease is caused by a specific parasite transmitted through the bite of an infected tick. It is characterized by a distinctive circular skin lesion known as erythema migrans or "bull's-eye" rash which first appears as a red, raised area but tends to expand in size over time. The infected area may develop a centralized clearing; single or multiple lesions often accompanied or preceded by a variety of other symptoms including headache, fever, fatigue, malaise, joint pain, stiff neck and nausea. With timely diagnosis and treatment, this is a very curable disease.

So how do ticks get on you? Ticks don't jump or fly - you can pick them up on your clothes, skin or hair just by brushing against a leaf or blade of grass they are sitting on.

Once they hitch a ride on you, they will look for a place to attach - like on the backs of your knees, armpits, in your hair (or near your hairline) or behind your ears. Don't get tick'ed off. You can still enjoy being outside with your friends, camping or hiking.

The best way to prevent tick-borne diseases is to avoid tick-infested areas including woodland, wooded edges and landscaped areas with dense ground cover. If this is not possible, just make sure you follow these tick tactics to keep ticks off of you.

 Wear light-colored clothing making it easier for ticks to be seen
 Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants to keep you protected
 Tuck pants into socks and shirts into pants
 Wear high boots
 Use repellents which contain 20 to 30 percent DEET and apply it to all exposed skin, avoiding the face
 Permethrin, a pesticide, should only be applied to clothing

The risk of transmission can be reduced further by examining yourself and family members when returning from tick-infested areas and removing ticks before they have a chance to feed. Check your clothing to make sure there aren't any ticks on it. Ask someone to help you check the places you can't see like your back, the top of your head and in your hair. If you find one tick, keep looking - there may be others you didn't see the first time around.

If you find a tick attached to your skin, there is no need to panic. There are several tick removal devices on the market, but a plain set of fine-tipped tweezers will remove a tick quite effectively. Prompt and proper tick removal is important for preventing possible disease transmission. Ticks embedded in the skin should only be removed by grasping the tick with pointed tweezers as close to the skin as possible and pull upward with steady even pressure. Attempts to remove ticks with chemicals or by burning will not work and may cause injury to the skin.

The Public Health office will send ticks off to be tested. The guidance for testing:

· Tick must have been on a person for at least 24 hours
· Tick must be engorged
· Tick can be alive or dead

If you begin to experience a rash or fever within several days or weeks of removing a tick, see your doctor. Be sure to tell the doctor about your recent tick bite: when the bite occurred and where you most likely acquired the tick.

Lyme disease is a preventable disease if individuals follow the proven medical preventive measures. Questions may be directed to Public Health at 754-9701 or visit the CDC website at

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