State Health Commissioner Participates in Tick Dragging Exercise to Kick Off Lyme Disease Prevention Month

ALBANY, May 14, 2007 – New York State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., will kick off Lyme Disease Awareness Month today by participating in a "tick dragging" exercise in Columbia County to highlight the need for Lyme disease prevention.

"Governor Spitzer has proclaimed May Lyme Disease Awareness Month to remind New Yorkers that Lyme disease remains an urgent health concern in our state, with more than 73,000 confirmed cases reported since 1986," said Dr. Daines. "The good news is that Lyme disease is preventable by taking simple precautions such as wearing light colored clothing, by tucking pants into socks and doing a tick check after walking in wooded areas."

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. Lyme disease first became a reportable disease in 1986. In 2006 alone, the Department received more than 5,000 reports of Lyme disease cases statewide. Columbia County has the highest incidence rate in New York State.

"We are pleased that Dr. Daines is launching Lyme Disease Awareness Month in Columbia County," said Columbia County Public Health Director, Nancy A. Winch. "Because Columbia County had the highest Lyme disease incidence rate for any county in the country from 2000 through 2004, we know that increased awareness is the key to prevention."

Dragging for ticks is a method that DOH researchers use to collect ticks in order to assess the risk for Lyme disease in an area by determining the amount or density of ticks in an area. It involves walking through a likely tick habitat while dragging a weighted square white cloth. Ticks will visibly cling to the cloth. The ticks are then tested at a certified laboratory for Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases like babesiosis and ehrlichiosis.

"Be Tick Free" is the State Health Department's statewide Lyme disease education program that focuses on prevention and how to avoid tick bites. Brochures and promotional materials are provided to local health departments for outreach efforts.

Removing a tick within 36 hours after it begins feeding reduces your risk of infection. Use tweezers to remove a tick, grasping the tick near the mouthparts, as close to the skin as possible. If a rash appears or you experience flu-like symptoms over the next 30 days, contact your health care provider immediately.

Precautions to help avoid tick bites:

  • Wear light-colored clothing (to spot ticks) and tuck pants into socks and shirt into pants in tick-infested habitats—wooded and grassy areas.
  • Check for ticks on clothing or skin after every two to three hours outdoors and brush off any ticks on clothing before they can attach to your skin. Also, check your children and pets for ticks.
  • Check your entire body for ticks at the end of the day.
  • Always read and carefully follow the instructions on insect repellent product labels.
  • Do not apply repellents directly to children. Apply to your own hands and then put it on the child.
  • Products containing permethrin should be applied to clothing (not skin), and the clothing should be treated before it is put on the body.
  • Do not assume that repellents will provide complete protection from ticks.

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.