State Health Commissioner Holds "Tick Tour" to Mark Lyme Disease Awareness Month

Announces New Prevention Effort to Assess Risk of Lyme Disease

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 28, 2008) - State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., participated today in the first "Tick Tour" of the Department's Vector Ecology Laboratory at Hudson Valley Community College to highlight the need for Lyme disease prevention and mark Lyme Disease Awareness Month.

"Governor Paterson proclaimed May as Lyme Disease Awareness Month to remind New Yorkers that Lyme disease remains an urgent health concern, with more than 77,000 confirmed cases reported since 1986," Commissioner Daines said. "Our partnership with Hudson Valley Community College helps support the state's Tick Identification Service as well as state-of-the art laboratory equipment used to detect disease-causing pathogens found in ticks that can carry Lyme disease."

Kicking off the "Tick Tour," Dr. Daines announced a new statewide Lyme disease prevention effort beginning in June 2008, which will result in increased DNA testing of ticks from all parts of the state. This will improve tick-borne disease prevention efforts and better assess the risk of acquiring Lyme disease statewide. The expanded effort will provide new Lyme disease data for local health departments to use in their prevention activities.

"Hudson Valley Community College is pleased to partner with the state Health Department in their research efforts to assist in protecting the public health from the spread of tick-borne disease," said Hudson Valley Community College President Andrew J. Matonak, Ed.D. "This partnership with the state Health Department is a great benefit to the college."

Prevention Effort Expanded Statewide

Ticks are now collected throughout the Hudson Valley and greater Capital District. In June, the collection of ticks will be expanded statewide. Using genetic analysis, ticks will be tested for the presence of three pathogens (Borrelia burgdorferi) which causes Lyme disease, which is responsible for human granulocytic anaplasmosis/HGA and (Babesia microi), the source for babesiosis. Both babesiosis and HGA are relatively rare in New York State compared to Lyme disease.

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.

Free Tick Identification Service at Hudson Valley Community College

"Be Tick Free: A Guide to Preventing Lyme Disease" appearing this weekend in major newspapers statewide includes information about how to reduce your risk of infection by safely removing a tick and submitting it to the Health Department's Tick Identification Service.

Since there are only four tick species, out of the more than 30 species found in New York that can potentially cause tick-borne illness, accurate identification of ticks removed from people is critical in determining appropriate medical treatment.

The Health Department's Tick Identification Service has identified more than 44,000 ticks since 1991, providing people with important information about ticks found on themselves or their pets to help determine the risk for Lyme disease. More than 5,000 ticks are received annually; the staff identifies the species of the tick, checks whether it is engorged with blood and determines how long it may have been feeding. Most ticks are identified within 24 hours.

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 such as 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 Health Department Website at: www.nyhealth.gov/diseases/communicable/lyme/ 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.