Maryland, Get Ticked-Off for Tick-borne Disease Awareness Month

Baltimore (May 12, 2014) – As the spring and summer seasons approach and people and their pets begin enjoying more time outdoors, the risk of tick-borne disease transmission is at its peak. In recognition of this, Governor O’Malley has proclaimed May as Tick-borne Disease Awareness Month. (Proclamation copy attached) The Maryland Departments of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) and Agriculture (MDA) join the Governor to remind Marylanders to enjoy the outdoors, but to keep ticks off.

“It’s incredibly important for residents to be aware of their surroundings and the possibility of tick-borne diseases – prevention is a big part of our efforts to stop tick bites,” says Governor Martin O’Malley. “The tips we’re providing will help keep more residents safe so they can enjoy the great outdoor recreation Maryland has to offer.”

Immature ticks are extremely small and can be located in wooded areas, brushy fields, high grass, and even in your own backyard. Maryland residents are urged to protect themselves, their children, and their pets against tick-borne diseases and take precautions when participating in outside activities.

“After spending time in the yard or hiking in the woods, perform visual checks to ensure you, your family and pets are tick-free,” says Dr. Laura Herrera, DHMH Deputy Secretary for Public Health Services.

In the state of Maryland, the most common ticks are the lone star tick, the black-legged tick, and the American dog tick. Ticks survive by consuming blood from a host which can be a human, dog, cat, or other warm blooded animals. It is important to be aware that ticks can transmit infectious diseases when they bite you.

Lyme disease is the third most common communicable disease reported in the state of Maryland, and over 1,650 Lyme disease cases were reported in 2012. Other diseases that can be transmitted by ticks include anaplasmosis, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain and other spotted fever diseases, and tularemia. Most tick-borne diseases can be cured with antibiotics, especially when treatment is started early.

“As a public service to residents, MDA entomologists can identify any tick submitted to the department,” says Agriculture Secretary Buddy Hance. “This valuable information can be used in discussions with medical professionals who can discuss treatment options if necessary.”

Residents interested in determining what kind of tick they have can go online to download a tick identification form at http://mda.maryland.gov/plants-pests/Documents/tickid.pdf. Be sure to fill out the form completely, tape the tick (do not send photos) to a small piece of paper or put into a dry container – do not use alcohol. Mail the tick and identification form to Maryland Department of Agriculture, Plant Protection & Weed Management Section, 50 Harry S. Truman Pkwy., Annapolis, MD 21401. MDA will respond with a letter of identification, usually within about two weeks. MDA does not test ticks for disease organism and does not discuss medical treatments, but the identification information can be discussed with a medical professional.

How to keep ticks off:

Look for ticks, especially in late spring through early fall, when they are most active.

Wear long pants and sleeves to help keep ticks off your skin.

Tuck your shirt into your pants, and pants into socks, to keep ticks on the outside of clothing.

Wear light colored clothing to help you spot ticks more easily.

Spray insect repellent containing 20-30% DEET on clothes and exposed skin.

Treat clothes with permethrin, but don’t use permethrin directly on skin.

Talk to your veterinarian about tick control products for your pets.

Ticks are most commonly found in woods, marshy places, bushes, shrubs, leaf litter, and tall grass.

When hiking, walk in the center of the trail when in woods or high grass. Stay away from brushy areas, high grass and leaf litter.

Check for ticks daily after being in tick habitat.

Properly remove ticks from the body or pets and send to MDA for identification. Contact your health care provider if you develop any symptoms after a tick bite or after being in tick habitat.

DHMH and MDA routinely join with local health departments, health care providers, veterinarians, community organizations and advocacy groups to raise awareness about tick-borne diseases in the month of May.

Some local health departments may be conducting activities in recognition of Tick-borne Disease Awareness Month. Check with your local office to find out what activities may be planned, such as distribution of educational materials, display of the Governor’s Proclamation or events.

Additional information about tick-borne diseases can be found at: http://phpa.dhmh.maryland.gov/OIDEOR/CZVBD/SitePages/lyme-disease.aspx.

Also follow us on Twitter @MarylandDHMH #TBDAM to read daily tick tips during the month of May.

 

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