State Health Commissioner Novello Urges New Yorkers to Take Precautions to Avoid Tick Bites, Prevent Lyme Disease

ALBANY, NY, May 11, 2005 - State Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello, M.D., M.P.H., Dr.P.H., today launched an education and awareness campaign, "Be Tick Free" to urge New Yorkers to protect themselves against potential tick-borne diseases that may cause chronic health conditions. As part of the State's public awareness efforts, Governor Pataki has proclaimed May as Lyme Disease Awareness Month in New York State.

Dr. Novello said, "Lyme disease is a serious illness that we continue to combat in coordination with local health departments to help better educate New Yorkers about the disease and the precautions they can take to avoid being bitten by ticks. Our coordinated efforts with communities where ticks are reportedly most prevalent are going a long way to help us in the fight against Lyme disease."

The State Health Department's new 'Be Tick Free' logo was developed in coordination with local health departments in counties where the report of ticks and the prevalence of Lyme disease cases are highest. The new logo will be advertised on trail markers, billboards and bus placards, as well as through local radio and television public service announcements. The Department is also providing updated educational and awareness brochures and logo stickers to counties on Lyme disease prevention to assist them in their public outreach efforts in the communities they serve.

Over 50,000 cases of Lyme disease have been reported to the State Health Department since Lyme disease first became a reportable disease in 1986. Lyme disease is caused by the bite of an infected deer tick (Ixodes scapularis) . Ticks are active when the weather stays above freezing, usually from April through November. In tick infested areas, any contact with vegetation, even playing in the yard, can result in exposure to ticks.

The following precautions are recommended to help avoid tick bites:

  • When in tick-infested habitat-wooded and grassy areas-wear light-colored clothing (to spot ticks) and tuck pants into socks and shirt into pants.
  • After every two to three hours outdoors, check for ticks on clothing or skin. Brush off any ticks on clothing before they can attach to your skin. Also, check your children and pets for ticks.
  • Do a thorough tick-check of your entire body at the end of the day. Pay particular attention to the back of the knees, behind the ears, the scalp, the armpits and your back.
  • Removing a tick within 36 hours after it begins feeding, reduces your risk of infection. To remove a tick: Use tweezers, grasping the tick near the mouthparts, as close to the skin as possible. Don't squeeze, crush or puncture the body of the tick, which may contain infectious fluids. Pull the tick in a steady, upward motion away from the skin.
  • After removing the tick, disinfect the bite site with soap, rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. Wash your hands carefully. Record the date and location of the tick bite. If a rash appears or you experience flu-like symptoms over the next 30 days, contact your health care provider immediately.
  • Consider using insect repellents to reduce tick bites. Follow label instructions carefully. Use repellents only in small amounts, avoiding unnecessary repeat application.
  • Children may be at greater risk for reactions to repellents, in part, because their exposure may be greater. Do not apply repellents directly to children. Apply to your own hands and then put it on the child.
  • Do not apply repellents near eyes, nose or mouth and use sparingly around ears. Do not apply to the hands of small children.

Tick repellents contain the active ingredients DEET, permethrin, or botanical oils. Be sure to always read and carefully follow the instructions on the product label before using repellents. Remember not to assume that repellents will provide complete protection from ticks and follow the above recommendations

Please contact your local health department or visit the State Health Department website at www.health.ny.gov for more information about the use of repellents, how to do a tick check, how to remove a tick, and the symptoms of tick-borne diseases.