Do We Have A Public Health Crisis On Our Hands?

In April 2013, the House Committee on Post Audit and Oversight issued an article titled, "Lyme Disease in Massachusetts: A Public Health Crisis." In 2009 both Suffolk and Middlesex counties have reported, in total, 702 cases of Lyme disease. This was the last year from which official numbers were made available. Massachusetts reported 4,045 cases state wide that year. We need to be aware and prepared for the future, based on our past.

Deer ticks are very small and sometimes hard to detect. Males are all black, a females abdomen is brick-red and near it’s head there is a black shield. The females swell up to 1/4 mm when they are fully engorged after feeding. They have potential to carry and spread Lyme disease through a very tiny bite. Lyme disease can lead to serious joint, heart or central nervous system problems if it is not recognized early. 

These pests are usually found in grassy areas, open fields, and most commonly, where fields meet wooded areas. Dear ticks are given there name because there number one feeding source is the deer, but humans can be accidental hosts as well.

Repellents that contain DEET or permethrin, have proven to work well, but appropriate clothing also is a good idea. Long-sleeved shirts and long pants is recommended during tick season. For extra protection consider tucking your pants into you socks. Keep your grass cut short and remember always clear your brush. Also avoid areas of low-lying bushes and plants when ever possible. If it’s too late and you find a tick on your body, remove it ASAP. If you work outdoors the chances of you being bitten are much higher. Daily body checks are recommended. To remove, use a pair of fine point tweezers. Grip the tick by its head as close to your skin as possible. Apply steady pressure as you pull straight out, do this slowly but firmly. Wash and disinfect the bitten area with antiseptic after tick is removed. Seek medical assistance if you were bitten and experience any of these side effects. Fever, headache, flu-like symptoms, fatigue, sore/aching muscles or if you develop a rash in the area of the bite.

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