STATEWIDE — Summer is approaching, and ticks are already popping out.
“Stop, check, prevent” is the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s theme for Lyme Disease Awareness Month this May.
“Lyme disease is a tick-borne disease,” said Scott J. Melton, M.D. PhD, an infectious disease physician at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center. “It’s caused by bacteria called Borrelia Burgdorferi, and actually, it’s carried by deer ticks.”
According to Megan Porter, the public health educator for the Maine CDC, there are several tick-borne diseases, but Lyme is the most common in the state.
She said Lyme disease is characterized by general flu-like symptoms at the beginning.
“One of the most common symptoms that we see with Lyme disease is what’s called the bulls-eye rash, which is a rash that typically looks like a bulls-eye with a red circle in the middle, a lighter area and then a pink circle that kind of expands,” Porter said.
Melton said Lyme disease can cause facial droops, arthritis or brain issues in some cases.
He said catching it early can prevent these from happening as Lyme can be treated with medication.
“If you see a tick on yourself or you pull a tick off, first thing is don’t panic,” Melton said. “It actually takes about 24 to 36 hours for the tick to be attached for the bacteria to get into your body from the tick.”
Porter said she recommends wearing light colored, long pants and sleeves, pulling your socks up over pants and using repellent to prevent ticks from getting on your skin. She said it’s important to do a thorough tick check, shower and put your clothes directly into the dryer on high heat to kill any ticks.
If you do catch a tick, she said they can be submitted to UMaine Cooperative Extension’s Tick Lab for identification and testing.
“If you’re using tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull straight up,” Porter said. “If you’re using a tick spoon, you can just scoop that tick right off from your skin.”