Tick Season Is Here, Protect Yourself From Lyme Disease

This time of year, the warm weather and longer days attract more outdoor human activity as well as a more active tick population. This means greater opportunity for human and tick interaction and increased risk of human exposure to ticks that can carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. Some researchers have predicted that this year’s unusually warm winter in much of the U.S. could lead to more abundant tick populations.
Lyme disease is bacterial infection transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. Fever, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, and a skin rash (often described as a “bull’s eye rash”) are some of the common symptoms of the disease. While an antibiotic treatment is effective for most cases when treated early on, if left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) more than 30,000 confirmed and probable Lyme disease cases were reported in 2010. Of these cases, 94% were in 12 states in the northeast (Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia) and upper midwest (Minnesota and Wisconsin).
The CDC has also created interactive maps that illustrate the dramatic increase of Lyme disease in the United States from 2001 to 2010. Blacklegged ticks and other tick species can spread several other diseases, but Lyme disease is the most common.
In parks where tick populations are prevalent, protecting our employees from exposure and encouraging visitors to have safe adventures means providing reminders and information about what precautions to take. Such reminders include telling visitors and employees to walk in the center of trails, use insect repellent, cover exposed skin, and find and remove ticks immediately after being outdoors.
Fortunately, the CDC has a webpage with resources related to Lyme disease prevention that provides clear, simple and evidence-based information to keep employees and visitors informed. The site includes free fact sheets, trail signs, public service announcements (PSAs) and brochures, offering a range of communication options to post in public areas and employee offices. The 30 second PSAs are pre-produced radio spots that can be downloaded for websites or personal MP3 players or played via park radios or at visitor centers. Brochures and signs are also all free to download and print or upload to park websites.

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