Take care to prevent tick-borne illnesses

That didn’t take long.

After just a few days of warm weather, ticks are starting to emerge. And that means an increased chance of tick bites and potentially contracting Lyme disease, health experts say.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 476,000 people are diagnosed with Lyme disease in the U.S. every year. May is National Lyme Disease Awareness Month and aims to spread awareness of how to prevent Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.

Ashley Johnson, a nurse practitioner at the Aspirus Tick-Borne Illness Center in Woodruff, Wis., says tick bites are very prevalent, even at this time of year.

“Any time the snow melts and the ground starts to thaw, ticks start to come out,” says Johnson. “So, anytime you’re outside in the woods or clean up brush, you’re going to want to cover up and protect yourself from tick bites.”

Lyme disease is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. They can occasionally transmit other tickborne diseases as well.

There are several precautions people can take:

— Wear long pants with your socks pulled over your pants.

— Wear light colored clothing.

— Use a bug spray on your clothes when you are participating in activities outdoors.

— Place your clothes in the dryer for 15 minutes after being outside to kill any ticks.

— Perform daily tick checks, especially in areas such as the bend of the knees, groin, belt line, hairline and armpits.

Typical clinical signs of Lyme disease include flu-like symptoms. If left untreated, however, it may spread to joints, the heart, and/or the nervous system. About 95% of Lyme cases are reported in the Northeast and Upper Midwest and the majority can be treated successfully with antibiotics.

Finding and removing ticks promptly can help prevent Lyme disease, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. More information is available at https://www.michigan.gov/emergingdiseases/home/lyme-disease.

Marshfield Clinic Research Institute offers a tick identification card at https://www.marshfieldresearch.org/nfmc/lyme-disease.

Also, the Aspirus Tick-Borne Illness Center has more information at https://www.aspirus.org/find-a-location/aspirus-tickborne-illness-center-552.


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