Town Nurse Talks Ticks, Lyme Disease

Ticks are a bigger problem this year than years past, and Glastonbury residents learned about how to avoid them, preventing Lyme Disease, and what to do if they are infected, as Glastonbury Public Health Nurse Krista Timken spoke at the Glastonbury Senior Center on June 13.

Timken said that the warm weather is the busiest time for ticks, and that the last two winters being mild has lead to an overabundance of ticks this year. Thirty-eight percent of the 450 ticks tested this year were positive for Lyme disease, up 11 percent from last year.

The CDC estimates that there may be many undiagnosed cases and that there may be as many as 300,000 cases of Lyme Disease each year, so earlier estimates around 30,000 may be inaccurate.

Ticks, Timken said, typically get on a person by clinging to tall grass and plants, and latching onto people as they walk through it.

“They can’t jump. They don’t hop, they don’t fly,” Timken said. “They transfer themselves when you brush against some kind of long grass or weed. Their back legs hold on [to the plant] and their front legs are reaching out, waiting for somebody to pass by.”

Adult female ticks need blood to feed their larvae, which become nymphs, and then feed multiple times before becoming adults.

Once attached to a person, a tick needs to stay attached for 20 hours or more to transmit the disease.

“It’s really important to check your dogs, check your clothing, check yourself,” Timken said. “If you get them right away, either before they bit you, or shortly thereafter, your chances of getting sick are diminished significantly.”

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Symptoms of Lyme Disease include a “bullseye rash,” which is present in about 70 percent of people with Lyme Disease.

Facial palsy, fatigue, headache, fever, and muscle and joint aches are other early signs. Later symptoms include arthritis, neurological, and hearing problems.

Symptoms usually appear withing the first month after a tick bite, but can also occur several weeks or months later.

Treatment works better the earlier the disease is detected. Typically, an antibiotic for 2-4 weeks will clear it up. Later stages of the disease may be treated with longer courses of antibiotics and other medications, as well as physical therapy for joints that were affected.

Prevention includes wearing light-colored clothing, to spot the ticks more easily. Walking in the middle of trails, as opposed to the edge, is also recommended. The use of products that contain permethrin, which can be used to treat boots, clothing, and camping gear will remain protective through many washings. On skin, products that contain 20 percent DEET (the chemical N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide) can protect up to several hours.

There is a best procedure for removing a tick, using a fine-pointed pair of tweezers.

“Clean those tweezers, grab the tick as close to the skin as you can. You don’t want to twist, you just want to pull them straight up and out,” Timken said. “Then, you want to make sure that you’re cleaning the site thoroughly.”

For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/lyme.

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