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Tick season: Take precautions to avoid Lyme disease

May 16, 2011|By Marissa Cevallos, HealthKey / For the Booster Shots blog
  • Some ticks, such as the black-legged, or deer, tick seen here, can carry Lyme disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends hikers wear long pants and use insect repellent to avoid bites from the tiny insects in the late spring and summer.
Some ticks, such as the black-legged, or deer, tick seen here, can carry… (James Gathany / Centers…)

Tick season is here, when hikers are advised to don boots and spray on insect repellent. The bites are painless, but those of the black-legged, or deer, tick can infect the victim with Lyme disease.

Lyme disease, which causes flu-like symptoms and, sometimes, a bullseye-like rash, is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. Some ticks carry the bacteria, which they pick up from biting deer or mice. Treated early, people with the disease can recover within a few weeks with antibiotics such as doxycycline or amoxicillin.

Researchers aren’t sure what the best long-term treatment is, but a couple of clinical trials are underway to help provide some answers.

The disease is most common in northeast and some north-central states. In 2009, about 13 people per 100,000 in the United States (111 in Delaware) reported having Lyme disease.

Lyme disease appears to be on the rise, as the number of cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has increased since 1992. But increased surveillance and awareness could be affecting the numbers.

To prevent tick bites, avoid wooded areas, especially from May to July. And when wandering into tick territory, use insect repellent with DEET and wear long pants. Here are some other suggested precautions from the CDC: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/lyme/Prevention/ld_Prevention_Avoid.htm

The bacterium-carrying ticks are so tiny they can be hard to see. Check out this video on how to (gracefully) remove a tick with a pair of sharp tweezers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8ziSYsh5lo&feature=related

healthkey@tribune.com

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