CONCORD – State health officials are recommending Granite Staters take precautions this summer to avoid ticks and the potential for catching tick-borne diseases like Lyme disease.
In 2014, there were an estimated 1,415 cases of Lyme disease in N.H. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were over 36,000 cases in the United States in 2013 (the most recent year for which data are available), and New Hampshire had the second highest incidence rate of Lyme disease in the country.
“Lyme disease is a major public health issue in New Hampshire," said Dr. Benjamin Chan, N.H. state Epidemiologist. “These ticks even cause other infections besides Lyme disease."
Lyme disease is transmitted to people by the bite of an infected blacklegged tick (also known as the deer tick). The greatest risk for Lyme disease is between the months of May and August when the blacklegged tick is in the nymphal stage. The nymph is about the size of a poppy seed and very difficult to see, so individuals may be unaware they have been bitten. Ticks that transmit Lyme disease can also transmit other diseases, such as anaplasmosis, babesiosis, and Powassan virus. Although not as common as Lyme disease, these have been documented in New Hampshire.
Symptoms of Lyme disease in the early stages can include fever, headache, fatigue, and most often a red skin rash that is round and may look like a bull’s-eye. Lyme disease is treatable with antibiotics, but if left untreated can lead to complications of meningitis (inflammation of the lining around the spinal cord), pain and swelling in large joints, and heart complications.
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 daily tick checks on yourself, family members and pets, especially after being outdoors
- Consult with your veterinarian about tick prevention for pets
- Shower soon after returning indoors to wash or rinse off any unattached ticks
- Reduce ticks around your home by keeping grass short, removing leaf litter, and minimizing habitat or food sources for deer and rodents, which can carry ticks
- Speak with your healthcare provider if you are bitten by a tick or if you notice a large round rash anywhere on you