April 9, 2012

Ticks warm up to Maine's mild spring

The Maine Center for Disease Control hopes education will check the incidence of Lyme disease.

By Deirdre Fleming dfleming@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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A September 2010 photo of a female deer tick on the corduroy flag used by researchers to collect ticks along a trail through Crescent Beach Park.

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LYME DISEASE SYMPTOMS

• RASH: A few days to a month before you have other symptoms, a small, red bump may appear at the site of the tick bite. Over the next few days, the redness expands, forming a rash in a bull’s-eye pattern, with a red outer ring surrounding a clear area.

• FLU-LIKE SYMPTOMS: Fever, chills, fatigue, body aches and a headache may accompany the rash.

• MIGRATORY JOINT PAIN: If the infection is not treated, you may develop bouts of severe joint pain and swelling several weeks to months after you’re infected. Your knees are especially likely to be affected, but the pain can shift from one joint to another.

• NEUROLOGICAL PROBLEMS: In some cases, inflammation of the membranes surrounding your brain (meningitis), temporary paralysis of one side of your face (Bell’s palsy), numbness or weakness in your limbs, and impaired muscle movement may occur weeks, months or even years after an untreated infection.

• LESS COMMON SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS: Some people may experience heart problems – such as an irregular heartbeat – several weeks after infection, but this rarely lasts more than a few days or weeks. Eye inflammation, hepatitis and severe fatigue are possible.

• WHEN TO SEE A DOCTOR: If you know you’ve been bitten and experience signs and symptoms of Lyme disease – particularly if you live in an area where Lyme disease is prevalent – contact your doctor immediately. Treatment for Lyme disease is most effective if begun early. Only a minority of deer tick bites lead to Lyme disease. The longer the tick remains attached to your skin, the greater your risk of getting the disease.

HOW TO KEEP DEER TICKS OFF

Use tick repellent.

Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants. Tuck your pants legs inside your socks.

Wear light-colored clothing so it’s easier to see ticks.

• Avoid interfaces of grassy areas and woods.

• When you get home, do a tick check.

Source: The Mayo Clinic

Bob Maurais, owner of a Sanford pesticide company, has been giving free seminars on ticks and Lyme disease with his wife since 2004. But Maurais, whose wife, Barbara, had Lyme disease, is relieved that the state is increasing this effort, and that major outdoor retailers are helping.

"I applaud the CDC in what it's doing this year trying to be more proactive and that's what has to happen. They have to get more organizations out there involved. They're hitting so many more people than we ever could with our little seminars of 30 to 40 people," Maurais said.

Some wildlife and forest management practices actually help spread Lyme disease.

Pinette said efforts by land managers to keep forested habitat intact, sometimes for the benefit of wildlife, provide good tick habitat. And state wildlife biologists' effort to grow the state's population of whitetail deer, the primary host of deer ticks, also could spread Lyme disease.

For the moment, she said, education is the best way to slow the spread of Lyme disease in the state.

"It's moving up here, but we believe with good awareness we can help prevent it," Pinette said. "The last couple of years, we've tried to get the word out."

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

dfleming@pressherald.com

Twitter: Flemingpph

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