The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported 50 cases of Lyme disease for January and February 2010, compared to an average of 15 in the last 5 years for those 2 months! Steve Jacobs, a Senior Extension Associate in the Penn State Department of Entomology, told me that these ticks have been continually expanding their range and increasing their numbers where they are already found. Even more interesting was that from his observations in Pennsylvania, ticks can be active all winter whenever there is no snow on the ground and the temperatures are above 28 degrees Fahrenheit.
Lyme Disease Transmission
Lyme disease is caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, a bacteria, which is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected tick. The tick most commonly associated with this disease is Ixodes scapularis, the blacklegged tick (previously known as the deer tick).
This tick is found in wooded, brushy locations throughout the eastern United States and in parts of the northern mid-west. This tick is heavily infested in these three areas of Pennsylvania:
- Southeast Pennsylvania, specifically those counties southeast of a line through Wayne to Adams counties
- North central counties of Elk, Clearfield, and Cameron
- Presque Isle in Erie County
Tips for Preventing Lyme Disease
- Avoid tick-infested areas, especially in May, June, and July.
- Wear protective light-colored clothing while outdoors (broad brimmed hat, a long-sleeve shirt, long pants, and socks).
- Use tick repellents, DEET, or permethrins.
- After being outdoors, remove clothing and wash and dry it at a high temperature.
- Check your body daily for ticks.
- Use forceps or tweezers to carefully remove ticks. Apply gentle constant retraction of the tick where it attaches to the skin (not the body of the tick).
- Seek immediate medical attention if signs or symptoms of early Lyme disease appear.
For More Information
To find out more about ticks and Lyme disease, please see the following resources:
Lyme Disease (web page), Penn State Department of Entomology
Lyme Disease (brochure), Penn State Department of Entomology
Four Common Ticks of Pennsylvania (fact sheet), Penn State Department of Entomology
Using Insect and Tick Repellents Safely (fact sheet), Penn State Pesticide Education Program
Learn about Lyme Disease (web page), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Until next time,