As the weather heats up and people spend more time outdoors, the risks of Lyme disease grow.
The town is urging residents to be aware.
According to the Greenwich Department of Health, in 2013 Connecticut ranked fifth among states in reported Lyme disease cases with 2,925, a number that was also the highest incident rate of the disease in the country.
While the numbers dipped to 1,705 confirmed cases and 641 probable cases of Lyme disease in 2014, Fairfield County reported the second highest number of those cases.
Over the course of 2013 and 2014, the town’s Department of Health Laboratory tested 620 ticks and other insects; 27 percent of deer ticks tested were found to be positive for Lyme disease.
There were also findings of other tick-associated diseases: 3 percent were positive for babesiosis and 1 percent was positive for both borrelia and babesiosis.
The town warned June, July and August are the times when the disease is most likely to be spread.
“The month of May begins the nymph lifecycle of the deer tick, which carries the bacterium that causes Lyme disease and the protozoan organism that causes babesiosis,” said Douglas Serafin, the Department of Health’s Director of Laboratory. “The nymphal stage tick is very tiny and can easily go unnoticed on the skin. Nymphs are also more active from June through August, which is why it is important to apply personal protection measures.”
Town Director of Health Caroline Baisley said spring and summer were especially important months for Lyme awareness because more people are spending time outside.
“By applying a few simple precautionary measures like checking for ticks on the body daily and using insect repellent, everyone can still enjoy the warm weather and decrease their chances of becoming infected,” Baisley said.
Children and adolescents are considered to be especially at risk because they spend more times in areas where they might suffer tick bites. Baisley said parents have to be thorough in checking for ticks on their children.
“When Lyme disease is misdiagnosed and goes untreated in children, it has a profound, devastating impact on a child’s well-being,” Baisley said. “It is imperative to know the signs and symptoms of this disease.”
Symptoms of Lyme disease three to 30 days after exposure include an expanding red rash usually at the site of the tick bite, headaches, fatigue, fever or chills and muscle, bone and joint pain. Later symptoms include severe arthritis, mood and/or sleep problems and neurological and cardiac complications.
For personal protection, the town advises people to use insect repellent containing 30 to 40 percent DEET, wear light clothing and make sure long pants are tucked into socks to make it easier to detect ticks and prevent them from getting on skin. People who go outside, especially in wooded areas, should do a thorough check for ticks for themselves, children and pets.
If a tick is found on the skin, people should make sure and remove them within 24 hours. Research has shown the sooner an attached tick is removed, the less likely there will be an infection of Lyme disease.
To properly remove a tick, the town’s Department of Health recommends using tweezers to grasp the tick mouthparts as close to the skin as possible and pull the it out with steady pressure. A person should not yank the tick out or pull on the body of the tick. The area where the tick was found should be washed with soap and water and dried before a topical antiseptic is applied.
A hot match, nail polish remover or petroleum jelly should not be used to remove ticks.
If a person has been bitten, they are advised to contact a physician and keep an eye out for symptoms.
In order to better protect pets, owners should make sure their dogs and outdoor cats spend minimal time in areas with leaf litter, brush and tall weeds. Pet owners should also check their animals for ticks when they come inside and check with veterinarians about additional methods to prevent tick bites.
The town also recommends keeping grass mowed, removing leaf litter, brush and tall weeds from around homes and lawn edges, moving firewood piles and birdhouses and feeders away from homes and not using plantings which are known to attract deer to cut down on risk. People can also exclude deer from lawns with fencing.
The town will be testing ticks for Lyme disease for lei250.44 until June. The test includes identifying the bacterium which causes Lyme disease and the protozoan organism that causes babesiosis. Results are normally available within 10 days.
“Although a tick may test positive, it does not necessarily mean that you will get Lyme disease,” Serafin said. “Like any other screening tool, the process for testing ticks has a small margin of error and, specifically for this disease, the tick must be attached for a period of time in order to increase a person’s risk. An engorged positive tick is much more likely to pass on the infected bacterium or protozoan organism than those ticks that are not engorged. Tick testing is only one tool among many to assess a person’s risk of getting Lyme disease or other tickborne diseases.”