Everything good comes with a price, and that includes the gentle winter and warm wet spring that many in Maine have been enjoying. The downside is that ticks, especially the ones that carry Lyme disease, are here early, too.

The Maine Center for Disease Control reports that cases of the disease are flooding in at a time when ticks are usually covered with a protective blanket of snow.

“Lyme disease has tripled in just the first two months of the year,” said Dr. Dora Mills, director of the Maine CDC. “I’ve never heard of ticks in February or March in Maine.”

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that can affect the joints, heart and central nervous system if left untreated. It usually starts with a circular rash that spreads over time. It then often results in a headaches or neck aches or a loss of facial muscle tone, known as Bell’s palsy.

The good news about Lyme disease is that if it’s caught early, it can be treated with antibiotics and leave no lingering effects.

The bad news is that it doesn’t always present itself the same way, and some people never have the characteristic “bull’s-eye” rash for which it is best known.

That means the best treatment is prevention. The experts recommend wearing long pants tucked into your socks when walking in wooded or grassy areas in which ticks are most active. They also recommend using insect repellent when walking outside and checking yourself and your pets daily for ticks.

These are all familiar warnings, just not ones usually heard this early in the year. But people can save themselves a lot of trouble by using extra caution now.

 


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