Senate task force targets Lyme Disease

A new senate panel has been formed to examine both state and federal efforts to combat the continued spread of a bacterial infection which can carry debilitating and, sometimes, deadly consequences. The Senate Task Force on Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases will work on recommendations for a state action plan to combat the continued spread of these diseases, and improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

The task force will review research, consult with experts, hear from the public and work with the appropriate state and federal agencies in developing recommendations for a New York State Action Plan which can serve as a comprehensive roadmap for the state moving forward.

Already, some new strategies are being implemented. For example, the “four- poster” deer tick program that uses deer feeding stations designed in such a way that the animal must put its neck, where most of the ticks congregate, through two gentle rollers that contain an insecticide to kills ticks. Studies of the four-poster system, including one by Cornell, have shown a remarkable reduction in the tick population.

As the work continues, it is important to arm yourself and your family with the tools to avoid the disease when possible, and detect and treat when necessary.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently estimated that about 300,000 individuals are diagnosed with Lyme each year nationally. Lyme is the most commonly reported of all tick-borne illness in the United States. There are 13 states that account for almost all of those cases; many of the cases are in New York.

The type of tick responsible for spreading Lyme disease in New York is the deer tick. Not all deer ticks carry the bacteria that cause Lyme disease; they become infected after feeding on an infected animal such as a mouse or other small mammal. Transmission from infected ticks does not occur until a tick has been attached and feeding for at least 24 to 36 hours, which is why it is important to always check for ticks after spending time outdoors. You cannot get Lyme disease from another person or an infected animal.

Deer ticks are active when the weather stays above freezing, usually from April through November. Young deer ticks, called nymphs, are active from mid-May to mid-August and are about the size of poppy seeds. Adult ticks, which are approximately the size of sesame seeds, are most active from March to mid-May and from mid-August to November. The deer tick is very small and orange-brown in color with a black spot near the head. Both nymphs and adults can transmit Lyme disease and their preferred habitats are wooded areas and adjacent grasslands. Lawns and gardens at the edges of woods may also be home to ticks.

Generally, ticks do not jump or fly onto their victims. They wait on vegetation and cling to animals and humans as they brush by. While there is no way to protect yourself completely from being bitten by a tick while in an infested area, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk:

-Stay on the center of trails and paths;

-Wear long pants and long sleeved shirts, and tuck the legs into your socks or boots;

-Wear light colored and tightly woven clothing;

-Use an insect repellant;

-Check yourself, your children and pets for ticks often. Pay special attention to the backs of knees, behind the ears, the scalp, armpits and back.

As soon as you find a tick attached to your skin, remove it. Use tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull out steadily and firmly, making sure the entire tick is removed. After removing the tick, thoroughly disinfect the bite site and wash your hands. See or call a doctor if there are concerns about incomplete tick removal.

By knowing the facts and taking precautions you can enjoy the outdoors and avoid Lyme disease.

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