'Protect Against Tick Bites,' Urges State Health Commissioner

May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month

Albany,N.Y. (May 22, 2009) -- Governor David A. Paterson has proclaimed May Lyme Disease Awareness Month to remind New Yorkers to "Be Tick Free" and take precautions from now through the fall season to protect themselves against potential tick-borne diseases, such as Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is caused by the bite of an infected deer tick. Ticks are active when the weather stays above freezing, usually from April through November, with peak activity in spring and early summer and again in the fall. If left untreated, Lyme disease can cause serious health complications, including musculoskeletal, neurological and cardiac problems.

"Lyme disease remains a public health concern in our state, with more than 82,000 confirmed cases reported since 1986, including at least 5,000 cases in 2008," said State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D. "New Yorkers can protect themselves against Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases by taking a few simple precautions to prevent exposure to tick bites and by removing ticks promptly."

When walking in wooded or grassy areas, Dr. Daines said New Yorkers should wear light-colored clothing to make ticks visible, tuck pants into socks, and check for ticks after leaving these areas. Removing a tick within 36 hours after it begins feeding reduces the risk of infection.

Since it was first reported in 1986, Lyme disease has increased its geographic range in New York State from Long Island and the lower Hudson Valley to as far north as Essex County and as far west as Onondaga and Tompkins counties. Tick surveys show increased numbers of deer ticks in the southern Adirondacks and Central and Western regions of the state, where relatively few deer ticks had previously been found.

The deer ticks that can carry the pathogen that causes Lyme disease are commonly found in forested and field habitat, particularly where these habitats meet. However, ticks can be found in many different habitats, including residential lawns adjacent to wooded areas.

Individuals should conduct frequent self-checks for ticks, and parents should frequently check their young children for ticks. If a tick is discovered, remove it promptly with tweezers by grasping the tick near the mouthparts as close to the skin as possible. If a rash appears or flu-like symptoms occur over the next 30 days, contact a health care provider immediately.

To help avoid tick bites, follow these precautions:

  • Wear light-colored clothing to spot ticks easily, and tuck pants into socks and shirt into pants when in tick-infested habitats, including wooded and grassy areas.
  • Check for ticks on clothing or skin after every two to three hours outdoors. Brush off any ticks on clothing before they can attach to skin. Check children and pets regularly for ticks.
  • Check entire body for ticks at the end of the day.
  • Carefully read and follow instructions on insect repellent product labels.
  • Don't apply repellents directly to children. Apply to your own hands, using your hands to apply to the child.
  • Products containing permethrin should be applied to clothing, not skin, treating the clothing before putting it on.
  • Don't assume that repellents will provide complete protection from ticks.

Information about the use of repellents, how to do a tick check, how to remove a tick, and the symptoms of tick-borne diseases is available on the State Health Department's Web site at:

Provisional data on confirmed and probable Lyme disease cases in 2008 for counties outside of New York City is available at:

The "probable" category was added in 2008 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for national reporting purposes.