May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month each year in Maine, the perfect time to be sure to “be tick smart” by doing your daily tick check. Ticks are most active in warmer weather.
Maine had more than 2,000 confirmed and probable cases of Lyme disease reported last year.
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that is passed through the bite of an infected deer tick. It is most common in adults more than 65 years old and in children between the ages of 5 and 15 years in Maine. Individuals that work and play outside are more likely to be exposed to ticks. Ticks must be attached for 24 to 48 hours before Lyme disease can be transmitted, so daily tick checks will allow you to find and remove ticks before getting Lyme disease.
If you are bitten by a tick, or spend a lot of time outdoors, watch for symptoms for up to 30 days, and call your Wabanaki Health Center if symptoms develop. The most common symptom of Lyme disease is a skin lesion called erythema migrans (EM), better known as the “bull’s-eye” rash. This usually appears in three to 30 days after the tick bite. Other symptoms include fevers, headaches, and joint or muscle pain.
Lyme disease is treatable and most individuals recover completely with a proper drugs. However, the easiest way to avoid the disease is prevention, using the guide, “No Ticks 4 ME”:
- Use caution in tick infested areas
- Wear protective clothing
- Use an EPA-approved repellant
- Perform daily tick checks after any outdoor activity
Lyme disease is not the only disease that can be carried by deer ticks in Maine. Anaplasmosis and babesiosis are two other tickborne infections found in Maine.
While the deer tick is the only species of tick in Maine that can transmit Lyme disease, there are other species of ticks found across the state including dog ticks. Tick identification is important, especially when removing ticks, and there are tick identification resources available to order at Maine CDC’s website. The University of Maine Cooperative Extension Tick ID Lab also offers free identification services and educational references.
The Maine CDC has Lyme disease information available on its website at http://www.maine.gov/lyme.