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Niagara County Health Officials Warn Against Tick Exposure and Lyme Disease Risk

Author: Jacquelyn Langdon/Monday, June 12, 2017/Categories: Health

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“The deer tick that transmits Lyme disease is present throughout the Northeastern United States, including
Western New York and Niagara County,” said Public Health Director Daniel Stapleton. Lyme disease is
caused when an infected tick bites the skin and stays attached long enough (typically more than 48 hours) to
inject bacteria into the bloodstream. The longer an infected tick stays attached, the more likely it will
transmit Lyme disease. Typical signs and symptoms of Lyme disease include a circular “bullseye” skin rash,
headache, fever, muscle pain and fatigue. Should you experience any of the aforementioned symptoms up to
30 days after a tick bite, please be sure to contact your primary doctor. Lyme disease is easily treated and
cured with antibiotics in the early stages, but if left untreated can result in serious complications involving
joints, immune system, nervous system, heart and other organs.

The Niagara County Department of Health conducts field surveillance by dragging for ticks. This technique
involves pulling a piece of white fabric through bushy areas and brush frequented by deer, rodents and birds.
Environmental Health workers, dressed in protective clothing and gloves, pick the ticks off the fabric and
place them in collection containers. Ticks collected by the Environmental staff are submitted to the New
York State Department of Health Wadsworth Laboratory verification and testing.

Environmental Health Director Paul Dicky stated, “Samples collected in Niagara County are consistent with
infection rates across Western New York. Approximately 50% of samples are positive for the bacteria that
causes Lyme disease.” Mr. Dicky said his division is only testing ticks found through field surveillance and
is not accepting ticks from medical providers or the public for testing.

It is possible to encounter ticks until snowfall. Both human and animal are at risk for tick bites. “The best
way to prevent Lyme disease is to take actions to protect yourself from getting bit by ticks,” Mr. Stapleton
emphasized. “People can protect themselves with several key steps. When in wooded and grassy areas, wear
clothing that covers all skin and is light-colored to see ticks better. Tuck shirts in pants and pants in socks.
Use recommended repellents (DEET) and follow label directions. Afterward, check the body carefully for
ticks. Remove any ticks by grasping the mouthparts with tweezers as close to the skin as possible and
disinfect skin by showering or bathing. Contact your doctor for guidance.” Find more information about ticks
and Lyme disease at: https://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/lyme/.  Legislator and Niagara
County Board of Health member Richard Andres added, “It is important that we educate the public on what
they can do to protect themselves and their families.”

If you have additional questions or concerns regarding tick exposure and Lyme disease risks, please call the
Niagara County Department of Health, Division of Environmental Health at (716) 439-7444.

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