According to state statistics provided by East Shore District Health Department — which serves East Haven, Branford and North Branford — there were 3,041 cases of Lyme disease in the state during 2011.
Last year there were 24 cases of Lyme disease in the health district’s three-town area: more than half of them coming from Branford, four cases were from East Haven and seven from North Branford. The most susceptible population, according to health officials, is boys ages five to nine.
“Our goal has always been to reduce this number [of cases] to a negligible amount; zero hopefully," Alex Cinotti, assistant director for ESDHD, said.
So what do you do if you expect a tick you’ve found may be carrying Lyme disease? You should send it off to the health department for free testing and monitor health condition for signs of illness.
According to the state Department of Health, the most common sign of Lyme disease is the telltale bull’s eye ring that forms around the bite area. This expanding red rash can vary in shape and size and can be warm to the touch. Early symptoms also include fever and/or chills, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, stiff neck and headache.
“Left untreated, Lyme disease infection can worsen and include symptoms involving joint swelling (Lyme arthritis), neurologic and cardiac complications, according to the DPH.
Cinotti and Rita Foster, Public Health Nurse, encourage residents to save all ticks found embedded in the skin to send off for testing. Because it’s difficult to spot the difference between a deer tick that could carry Lyme disease and a dog tick that does not, all ticks should be sent in, they stated.
For East Haven residents, ticks can be dropped off at ESDHD offices, 14 Business Park Dr.; 203-481-4233;www.esdhd.org.
If you find a tick on your clothing or crawling on your body and it hasn’t burrowed itself into your skin, it does not need to be sent in for testing, added Foster. Also ticks have to be in your skin for at least 24 hours to contract Lyme disease, said Foster, adding that there’s no way or really telling how long a tick has been burrowed inside for sure. Err on the side of caution, she said, and send an tick found embedded into the skin.
Place a suspected tick in a sealed plastic baggie and bring to your local health department. The tick will be sent to the state for testing and residents will be notified of the results via mail. In the meantime, residents who suspect they may have contracted Lyme disease should see a doctor immediately.
“Ticks,” said Cinotti, “do not jump, fly or drop from trees but grab passing hosts from leaf litter or tips of grass.” To protect against Lyme disease, the number one thing to do is keep extremities covered when venturing into wooded areas or spending extended periods of time outdoors.
ESDHD Lyme Guide
How soon do symptoms appear?
The early symptoms of Lyme disease usually occur within the first month after the tick bite. Later symptoms can occur several weeks to several months later.
How is Lyme disease diagnosed?
Lyme disease may be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms can mimic many other disorders. Blood tests can be helpful in the diagnosis of Lyme disease but should not be used exclusively. It is important that medical attention be sought if Lyme disease is a suspected cause of illness.
What is the treatment for Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is easily treated when it is detected in the early stages. Treatment with oral antibiotics, such as doxycycline or amoxicillin, taken for a few weeks are often effective. Intravenous antibiotic treatment may be necessary for patients with late symptoms of Lyme disease.
How can Lyme disease be prevented?
To prevent Lyme disease and other tick-borne infections, the best protection is to avoid contact with ticks. When working or playing outside in areas that ticks inhabit (tall grass and weeds, scrubby areas, woods and leaf litter) you should:
- Wear light colored clothing (to spot the ticks easily), long sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Create a â€œtick barrierâ€ by tucking pants into socks and shirt into pants.
- Consider using insect repellent, according to manufacturerâ€™s instructions, when planning to be outdoors.
- Check clothing and skin very carefully (especially thighs, groin, arms, underarms, legs and scalp) after being outdoors in tick infested areas and remove any ticks promptly.
- Wash the area with soap and water and apply an antiseptic when the tick has been removed. Write on a calendar the date you removed the tick and the area of the body from which it was removed. Check that area every day for a month for a red ring-like rash. Be aware of any flu-like symptoms that may appear.
- Keep your lawn mowed, cut overgrown brush, and clear any leaf litter away from the home.
- Inspect pets daily and remove any ticks found.
How should a tick be removed?
- It is important that a tick is removed as soon as it is discovered.
- Remove the tick as soon as possible using tweezers. Grasp the tick mouth parts as close to the skin as possible and pull the tick out with steady pressure. Do not yank the tick out. Do not crush the ticks body as it may contain infectious fluids.
- Do not use petroleum jelly, hot matches, nail polish remover, or any other substance to remove a tick. By using these substances, you may actually increase your chance of infection.
- Thoroughly wash the area of the bite with soap and water and put an antiseptic on it.
- Check after every 2 to 3 hours of outdoor activity for ticks attached to clothing or skin.
- The sooner the tick is removed, the lesser the risk of tick-borne infection.
- Write on the calendar the date you removed the tick and the part of the body it was removed from.
Contact your physician for recommendations on testing and treatment.