Tickborne Diseases Trends and Prevention

Broome County Health Department (BCHD) has observed an increase in reported tickborne illnesses. As Broome County residents spend more time outdoors this summer, they should be vigilant for ticks and take precautions to protect themselves from tickborne diseases.

Lyme disease is the most commonly-known tickborne disease, but according to NYS Department of Health, others are on the rise in Broome County. From 2014 to 2019, the estimated number of Lyme disease cases increased from 152 to 330 (note: 2019 data is provisional at time of writing). In 2014 there were 0 cases of anaplasmosis compared to 23 cases in 2019. Already in 2021, BCHD has reported 20 cases of anaplasmosis. Ehrlichiosis and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever cases have also increased but remain low.

Tickborne diseases are spread to humans through the bite of an infected tick. According to the CDC, common symptoms include body/ muscle aches, fever, headaches, fatigue, joint pain, stiff neck and facial paralysis. Lyme disease can produce an erythema migrans (bullseye) rash but not always. The rash generally expands but does not always appear as the trademark “bullseye”.

Ticks can be found in wooded or grassy areas, including lawns. “Ticks cannot fly or jump. They like to rest on low-lying vegetation and in leaf litter.  Ticks attach to a passing animal or person. Once on a body, ticks often attach to the more hidden areas such as the groin, armpit and scalp,” said Victoria Perkins, Senior Public Health Sanitarian at the Broome County Health Department. Ticks can be hard to see due to their small size.

There are some precautions Broome County residents can take to minimize their chance of being bitten by a tick.

  • When spending time outdoors, wear light-colored clothing and tuck pants into socks and shirts into pants.
  • Perform frequent tick checks on skin and clothing. Ticks do not typically attach right away. Brush them off before they can attach.
  • Do a full-body tick check at the end of the day and shower as soon as possible after being outdoors. Showering will wash away ticks that haven’t attached yet.
  • Use repellants containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), or para-methane-diol (PMD). Always follow product instructions.
  • Treat clothing and gear with products containing 0.5% Permethrin. Always follow product instructions.

If you do find an attached tick, remove it as soon as possible. Use fine-tipped tweezers to grab the tick as close to the skin as possible. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Do not twist or jerk. Clean the bite area and your hands after removing the tick and dispose of the tick by putting it in a sealed bag or flushing it down the toilet. If the tick is found to be engorged or you believe that it has been attached for more than 36 hours, contact your healthcare provider.

For more information about tickborne diseases visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website at https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/index.html and the New York State Department of Health’s website at https://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/lyme/

Publish Date
July 1, 2021