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Ticks are already active this year, experts advise precautions

May is Lyme disease awareness month
(WSAW)
Published: Apr. 12, 2021 at 5:49 PM EDT
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BANGOR, Maine (WABI) - Mosquitos and black flies have yet to emerge in great numbers, but it’s important to be on the lookout for ticks.

We spoke with experts about how to avoid ticks and the diseases they can carry.

”Ticks are active now. Here in Maine, they’ve been active since the middle of March.” says Griffin Dill, UMaine Tick Lab coordinator.

Lyme Awareness Month isn’t until May, but Megan Porter, vectorborne disease health educator with the Maine CDC, says there are simple behaviors you can start now to stay safe.

“Our theme for Lyme Disease Awareness Month this year is Stop, Check, Prevent.”

Avoiding a tick bite is the best option.

“We’d like to have one of these silver bullet management tactics to eradicate the tick, but unfortunately that doesn’t exist.” says Dill.

Porter suggests stopping and checking for ticks frequently while out, and taking a shower when you get home.

“Look for those little hitchhikers on your body before they get a chance to bite you.”

Prepare for activities where ticks are likely to be found by dressing in light colored clothing.

“Anything that’s going to make a dark tick stand out. And it’s not a great fashion statement, but we do recommend tucking your pants into your socks.” Porter joked. “You’ll look really cool.”

EPA approved insect repellents like DEET or IR3535 are also recommended.

“Or we do have a natural repellant called oil of lemon eucalyptus.”

If you do find a tick that has attached itself...

“So, the first thing is don’t panic.”

Porter suggests removing the tick as soon as possible by pulling it straight out. Tools like tweezers or a tick spoon can help.

“For the first 30 days after that bite, you want to monitor your health for flu-like symptoms”

Look for a bullseye shaped rash that could indicate Lyme disease.

“We do recommend that you put that tick in either a sealed plastic bag or a sealed plastic container.”

You can help preserve the specimen with rubbing alcohol.

“If you like, you can send it into our lab.” says Dill. “We offer free tick species identifications as well, for a nominal fee fifteen dollars, we will test the ticks for any associated pathogens that they may carry.”

Stay vigilant for the tiny pests, and you can enjoy the great outdoors with confidence.

“If you do catch it early, Lyme disease and other tick borne diseases are pretty easy to treat.” says Porter.

The Maine CDC is also holding a poster contest for kids to get information out about ticks.

“The youth in Maine have been really helpful in spreading the news to their communities about tick borne disease.” says Porter. “I’d like to just throw out there that we are accepting poster submissions from kindergarteners through 8th graders in Maine up through the end of the month.”

You can find more information on the poster contest and resources about ticks and tick borne diseases at maine.gov/lyme

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