According to Rick Ostfeld, a disease ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, 2017 is anticipated to be a particularly risky year for Lyme disease. He expects the risk will be high in New York, Connecticut, and possibly areas of the mid-Atlantic region.
This is part of a growing trend, where Lyme contiues to spread in New England and the upper Midwest.
"Reported cases of Lyme have tripled in the past few decades," says Centers for Disease Control epidemiologist Kiersten Kugeler.
On the East Coast, Kiersten says most people catch Lyme near their homes, not just when hiking or camping. So if you live in an area that is tick prone, it's important to check yourself and your pets regularly. Since blacklegged ticks can be as small as a poppy seed and like to hang out in the nooks and crannies of the human body, Kiersten advises people to check behind ears, armpits, and the groin area.
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If you find a tick, "very carefully, go under the head of the tick with tweezers and just pull out the mouth of the tick, which is embedded in the skin," instructs Dr. Brian Fallon who directs the Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases Research at Columbia University Medical Center. Don't squeeze the body of the tick which will transfer possible infection into the skin. Don't use Vaseline or fire to remove the tick. Tweezers are the best tool.
There are a few ways to determine your Lyme risk:
- Check your state health department's web site to see if Lyme is present in you community
- Save the tick you pull and have it tested in a lab to see if it was carrying Lyme
- Take a picture of the tick and send it to the TickEncounter Resource Center where scientists can identify the tick and tell you the chance it could have Lyme
All this sounds depressing, but remember, not all ticks carry Lyme, and it takes 24-36 hours to transmit the disease. The sooner you catch them, the better. Kiersten recommends making tick checks as part of your daily routine to combst this preventable disease.