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  • Department of Human Services

    Division of Public Health

    Lyme Disease - Health Topics

    Introduction

    Tick

    Female American Dog Tick (right) and Deer Tick nymph (left) on palm of man's hand. Deer Tick nymphs are responsible for 80% of human cases of Lyme Disease. Photo Courtesy of the Dept. of Agricultural Journalism, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison.

    Lyme Disease has become a prevalent problem in the last few years. It not only affects hikers and campers, but can also affect people walking across suburban lawns or city lots. Lyme Disease is caused by a spirochete bacterium that is transmitted generally through the bite of infected ticks. Not all ticks can the spirochete, so not all bites lead to Lyme Disease.

    In this area, the main culprit is the deer tick (Ixodes dammini). Ticks feed on the blood of mammals, and usually acquire the spirochete infection during its immature stages of life (larva and nymph). Deer ticks don't just live on deer. Most of their life is spent in underbrush or in the nests of rodents. The infected tick may go on to bite a human, and transmit the spirochete into the human. Cats, dogs, horses, and cows all have been known to get Lyme Disease also.

    The adult deer tick is about the size of a sesame seed, smaller than other species of ticks. The body of the female is dark brown to black, with a distinctive brick red abdomen. The adult male tick is smaller than the female, and is uniformly brown to black in color.

    THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS "TICK SEASON". TICKS CAN BE OUT ALL YEAR LONG.

    Prevention

    • Avoid tall grass, weeds, or shrubby areas. Keep to well-worn trails.
    • Tuck pants into socks, and keep shirt tucked in also. Wear hats, and tight-weave socks.
    • Wear light-colored clothing.
    • Repellent will help, but follow instructions of product exactly. Spray repellent only on clothing.
    • Check yourself daily. Do periodic tick checks if outside for a long time. Check entire body and clothing.
    • Ticks are out all year, but they are less in number when it is cold out.

    Minimization of Tick Population

    To try and lower the human-to-tick contact, there are a few things we can do:

    • Remove yard waste, brush piles, leaf litter, and wood piles. These are prime tick habitat.
    • Create tick "free" zones between the edge of lawns and brushy tick habitat. Edged, mulched, and weed-free flower beds are an example.
    • Mow grass around buildings, home lawns, and along paths- no higher than four inches.
    • Minimize contact between your yard and wild animals. Try not to attract animals such as deer, mice, or rabbits.
    • Keep pets out of brushy, high grass areas.

    Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF)

    This is another tick-borne illness that is caused by a bacteria transmitted during the feeding process of infected ticks. In Southern New Jersey, there are reported cases every year, and the main culprit is the dog tick. Not every tick bite will result in RMSF. For more information on Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever follow this link to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/rmsf/Q&A.HTM.

    Any further questions about tick borne illnesses may be directed to Atlantic County Division of Public Health at 645-7700 ext.4248.

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