PA is #1 for Lyme disease. Here’s how to stay safe in the Poconos

The warmer days are almost here and the snow will hopefully clear up soon. . This can only mean one thing: spring is on the way!

Before we know it, green grass, tree buds and flowers springing from the ground will confirm that the warm breezes of the new season will lift everyone’s spirits. Ah, but alas, with all the joy of spring comes the return of some of those dreaded insects, especially the tick.

As we all begin to spend more time outdoors, being aware that ticks will soon reappear and being vigilant will once again become part of the daily routine when you return indoors. Ticks contract Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases from infected animals and transmit them to humans and animals.

Something to think about last week:War dogs to be honored at ceremony at Delaware Water Gap

More coverage:Ticks in Monroe and Pike counties are more likely to carry Lyme disease than the state average

Ticks are tiny arachnids that cannot jump or fly, but live in grass, leaves and wood. They cling to your feet or lower legs, crawling up your body looking for dark, warm areas to attach to. Common ticks in Pennsylvania are the blacklegged “deer” tick, the American dog tick, the groundhog tick, and the Lone Star tick.

If you’ve lived here for a while, you know that ticks are part of our more “country” way of life. Recent information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that Pennsylvania is No. 1 in confirmed cases of Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted to humans primarily through the bites of infected deer ticks. According to the CDC, it is the fastest growing vector-borne infectious disease in the United States.

Lyme Disease Symptoms and Treatment

Just a little reminder about the symptoms of Lyme disease. The first symptoms may appear within a day or a week. Often people think they just have the flu or a virus. Symptoms include fever, headache, body aches, swollen glands, fatigue, and possible rash. The most common indicator is a bulls-eye rash, but it can also present in other forms, such as a round or oval reddish rash. If a bulls-eye rash is seen, it is a definite diagnosis and treatment should begin immediately.

Early treatment can save a lot of pain and suffering. Treatment for early localized disease is a simple 10-14 day course of oral antibiotics to clear the infection. Some of the drugs used to treat Lyme disease as first-line treatments include: doxycycline, amoxicillin, and cefuroxime, although studies are still ongoing for new drugs.

Of interest:The Poconos depend on recreation and tourism. How will climate change affect the industry?

Prevent Lyme Disease

Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses can be serious, but also preventable by avoiding high-risk habitat areas for ticks. When you walk along a path, walk in the middle. The safest place. Wear appropriate clothing. Wear light-colored long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and tight knit socks. Tuck shirts into pants and pants into socks. This will prevent a tick from crawling under clothing. Wear a scarf and hat to protect your neck and head.

Use repellent. There are a variety of tick repellents available today. For the most effective prevention of tick bites, products containing the active ingredients DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), or permethrin have been shown to be most effective. The CDC recommends using products containing these ingredients that are registered with the US Environmental Protection Agency. (EPA). Studies have shown that people who wore permethrin-treated sneakers and socks were 74 times less likely to get a tick bite.

Finally, do a thorough check-up on yourself, your children, and your pets when you return from outdoor activities. If you find a tick, remove it immediately. Use fine tweezers to grab the tick as close to the skin surface as possible. Pull up with constant, even pressure. Do not twist or turn the tick, this could cause the mouthparts to detach and remain in the skin. After removing the tick, clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water. A live tick can be killed by putting it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag, wrapping it in tape, or flushing it down the toilet.

If you want to know if the tick has been infected with Lyme disease, test kits are available in stores. Locally, you can check out at the University of East Stroudsburg Innovation Center located on Independence Road in East Stroudsburg.

So welcome spring and all its glory, but be aware and prepared!

It is a female Lone Star Tick, Amblyomma americanum, and is found in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic United States (James Gathany CDC/Courtesy photo)

Of interest:Here’s what you need to know about ticks in Pennsylvania

University of East Stroudsburg Tick Laboratory

East Stroudsburg University in Monroe County is home to the Dr. Jane Huffman Wildlife Genetics Institute and the Pennsylvania Tick Lab, a leading laboratory specializing in the study of tick-borne diseases. The lab offers free tick tests.

The lab can test submitted samples for 17 diseases, including Lyme.

At the time of this story, the lab had tested over 49,000 tick samples submitted across the Commonwealth. In Monroe County, more than 3,300 ticks were tested, along with 2,399 in Pike, 930 in Wayne, more than 300 in Carbon and more than 1,000 in Lackawanna.

To learn more about how you can submit a tick sample for testing, visit ticklab.org. To learn more about ESU’s efforts in tick diagnostics, visit esu.edu/dna/tick-diagnostics/index.cfm.

– Debbie Kulick writes a weekly column for the Pocono Record and Tri-County Independent, and serves on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic as an EMT.

Ashley Fontones contributed reporting for this column.