Tick-Borne Diseases

With summer in full swing, we will be spending more time participating in activities outdoors in areas such as parks, forests, and hiking trails.  While getting out and keeping physically fit is strongly encouraged it is important to keep in mind that being in these areas can put you at risk for tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne infection in New York City and in the United States.  On the east coast, Lyme disease is spread by the bite of a black-legged tick infected with the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi.  Not all black-legged ticks carry this bacterium and, even if they are infected, they must be attached for at least 36 – 48 hours after a person is bitten to transmit the disease.

Although Lyme disease is common, it is not the only tick-borne disease to be wary of; other diseases include tularemia, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness, Tick-Borne Relapsing Fever, and anaplasmosis.

The best way to avoid contracting Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases is to avoid direct contact with ticks.  You can do this by avoiding wooded and brushy areas, and high grass.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also recommends the following to reduce exposure to ticks:

  • Wear a hat and light-colored clothing, including long-sleeved shirts and long pants tucked into boots or socks.
  • Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone
  • Check your skin and clothes for ticks
  • Remember to check your hair, underarms, and groin for ticks.

Some of the tips to find and remove ticks from your body and clothing are:

  • Take a shower soon after returning indoors. If you wash within two hours of returning indoors, the ticks are more easily found and washed off your body.
  • Once you are indoors, take your clothing and place them in the wash using hot water and then put them in the dryer on “high” for at least 10 minutes; if the clothes were washed in cold water, place them in the dryer on “high” for at least 90 minutes

If you have been bitten, please consult a doctor immediately. Tick-borne diseases that are left untreated can cause arthritis, facial palsy, and nervous system problems. To schedule an appointment with a doctor at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, please call 718-206-7001.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.