Public urged to be on lookout for ticks

DOVER — As the weather warms up, the Division of Public Health is warning people to beware of ticks and the Lyme disease their bites can cause.

Approximately 20,000 new cases are reported in the United States each year, and Delaware is among the top 10 states for highest incidence rates, with DPH reporting 520 confirmed or probable cases in the First State last year.

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection caused by the bites of blacklegged or deer ticks. It can cause a rash and often brings with it fever, chills, fatigue, headaches, muscle soreness and joint aches. Most cases of Lyme disease can be cured with two to three weeks of oral antibiotics, but a small percentage of patients with Lyme disease have symptoms that last months or even years.

Lyme disease can be difficult to diagnose, as not all patients with it will develop the characteristic bull’s-eye rash, and tick exposures may often go undetected. Untreated infections can lead to severe joint pain and swelling, particularly in the knees, as well as loss of muscle tone on one or both sides of the face (Bell’s palsy), dizziness, severe headaches, neck stiffness and neurological problems.

DPH epidemiologists are conducting interactive educational presentations at Delaware elementary and middle schools this week to increase awareness of tick-borne diseases. Their efforts are an ongoing part of the BLAST campaign, which offer the presentations year-round to camps, schools and organizations. Any group or organization can request a presentation by calling 888-295-5156.

BLAST is an acronym for remembering five simple steps you can take to protect yourself and others, including pets, from Lyme disease. Those steps are: bathe or shower within two hours of coming indoors, look for ticks on your body and remove them, apply repellent to your body and clothes, spray your yard and treat your pet.

Additionally, DPH is making poly-vinyl tick bite prevention trail signs available to all parks and municipalities statewide while supplies last. To reserve signs, call DPH at 744-4930.

Also new this year are several short videos on tick bite prevention and removal on DPH’s social media channels, and a short online survey for state employees to benchmark their awareness and knowledge of Lyme disease and preventive and tick removal measures.

To assist medical providers in diagnosing and treating Lyme disease, DPH has created flyers that will be distributed through state health care association partners.

More information on Lyme disease can be found at lyme.de/gov, medicalthoughtleaders.com/MSD/LD/LD1.html or cdc.gov/lyme/healthcare/index.html.

Reach the Delaware State News newsroom at newsroom@newszap.com

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