State Health Commissioner Urges New Yorkers to 'Be Tick Free'

Demonstrates Tick Avoidance in Recognition of Lyme Disease Awareness Month

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 20, 2010) - State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., today participated in a "tick dragging" exercise in Saratoga County and demonstrated avoidance of tick bites, the proper use of insect repellants, and tick removal as he urged New Yorkers to take precautions to prevent Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases.

Dr. Daines dragging for ticks at the Vischer Ferry Nature Preserve in Saratoga County at an event to highlight May as Lyme Disease Awareness month. He is with the Clifton Park Town Supervisor Phil Barrett.

Photo: Dr. Daines dragging for ticks at the Vischer Ferry Nature Preserve in Saratoga County at an event to highlight May as Lyme Disease Awareness month. He is with the Clifton Park Town Supervisor Phil Barrett.

"Lyme disease is a public health concern in our State, with more than 89,000 confirmed cases reported since 1986 and 8,510 cases* in 2009 alone," Commissioner Daines said. "New Yorkers can protect themselves against Lyme disease and other diseases caused by ticks by taking a few simple precautions to prevent exposure to tick bites and by correctly removing ticks promptly."

The exercise was conducted at Vischer Ferry Preserve in Clifton Park for educational purposes only. The entire Capital District is prime deer tick habitat. Visitors to the Preserve are no more likely to get tick bites there than at other outdoor areas in the region.

"Saratoga County has seen a dramatic increase in the number of confirmed cases of Lyme disease from 159 in 2007 to 407 in 2009," said Janet L. Glenn, Director of Public Health for the Saratoga County Public Health Department. "Education and prevention are paramount to reducing the number of individuals who contract Lyme disease. Saratoga County Public Health encourages all residents and visitors to Saratoga County to take the necessary precautions to avoid contact with ticks."

Clifton Park Town Supervisor Phil Barrett said: "The Clifton Park Town Board is committed to ensuring that residents have access to up-to-date information on public health issues. We're grateful to the Department of Health and Commissioner Daines for coming to Clifton Park to discuss this important public health topic."

Since first being made reportable in New York State in 1986, Lyme disease has spread from Long Island and the lower Hudson Valley throughout New York State. Lyme disease has been reported among residents in all 62 counties in the State.

Lyme disease is a bacterial disease caused by the bite of an infected deer tick. Deer ticks become active when the temperature stays above freezing, usually from April through November. Deer ticks can only crawl. Individuals may pick up a tick on their clothing when they brush against plants, trees, grasses, or flowers where ticks are present.

Protect Against Tick bites

  • Know where to expect ticks. Ticks live in moist and humid environments, particularly in or near wooded or grassy areas. You may come into contact with ticks during outdoor activities around your home or when walking through vegetation such as leaf litter or shrubs. To avoid ticks, always walk in the center of trails.
  • Wear long sleeves, long pants and socks. Wear light-colored clothing, which allows you to see ticks crawling on your clothing. Tuck your pant legs into your socks so that ticks cannot crawl up inside your pant legs. Some ticks can crawl down into shoes and are small enough to crawl through most socks.
  • Consider using a repellent with DEET (on skin or clothing) or permethrin (on clothing). Repellents containing 20 percent or more DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) can be applied to the skin and can protect up to several hours. Follow product instructions. Parents should apply the product to their children, avoiding the hands, eyes and mouth. Repellents containing DEET should NOT be used on infants under two months of age. Products containing permethrin can be used to treat boots, clothing and camping gear, which can remain protective through several washings.
  • Perform daily tick checks. Check your body for ticks after being outdoors, even in your own yard. Conduct a body check upon return from potentially tick-infested areas by searching your entire body for ticks. Use a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body and properly remove any tick you find. Parents should conduct daily body checks for ticks on their children.

Removing a Tick

Not all ticks are deer ticks, and not all deer ticks are infected with the bacteria that cause Lyme disease. However, if you find a tick and remove it promptly, you reduce your risk of getting Lyme disease if the tick is infected. Removing an infected tick within 36 hours after it bites you lowers your risk of infection. The only correct way to remove a tick is:

  • Using tweezers, grasp the tick near the mouthparts, as close to the skin as possible. Do not 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 area with soap, rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. Wash hands carefully. Record the date and location of the tick bite. If a rash appears or flu-like symptoms develop over the next 30 days, contact your health care provider immediately.

Dogs can get Lyme disease too, so make sure to check your dog for ticks after it has been outside. Since it is unclear whether cats can get Lyme disease, check them too. Remove any ticks you find on them in the same way as for individuals.

Lyme Disease Cases in the Capital Region by County in 2009**

County Lyme Disease Cases
Albany 638
Columbia 572
Greene 402
Rensselaer 545
Saratoga 407
Schenectady 131
Warren 94
Washington 181

*Provisional data (excluding NYC)

**Provisional data

For more information about Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases, contact your local health department or visit the State Health Department's Web site at www.nyhealth.gov/diseases/communicable/lyme/.