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Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Press Release # 037-06
Thursday, May 25, 2006

CONTACT: (212) 788-5290; (212) 788-3058 (after hours)
Sandra Mullin (smullin@health.nyc.gov)
Andrew Tucker (atucker@health.nyc.gov)


NYC DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND MENTAL HYGIENE REMINDS NEW YORKERS TO TAKE PRECAUTIONS AGAINST TICKS

NEW YORK CITY – May 25, 2006 – The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) today cautioned New Yorkers to protect themselves against ticks and tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease as they spend more time outdoors during the summer months. The vast majority of Lyme disease infections in New Yorkers are acquired outside of the five boroughs, in areas where the tick that transmits ( Ixodes scapularis ) is found. There were 399 cases of Lyme disease reported in New York City in 2005.

DOHMH Commissioner Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH said, “While most tick-borne illnesses among New Yorkers are contracted in grassy or wooded areas outside of the 5 boroughs, ticks can also be found in the City. There are many simple steps to help prevent tick-borne illness, including performing tick checks, wearing long sleeves and socks when outdoors and using an insect repellent containing DEET.”

“As ticks can be difficult to notice, people may not realize that they have been exposed to a tick,” Dr. Frieden continued. “One of the best ways to prevent tick-borne illness is to perform a thorough tick-check after being outdoors in wooded areas, especially for children and the elderly. If a tick is removed promptly, the chance of getting ill may be reduced.”

Recommendations to Prevent Tick-Bites and Tick-Borne Illness
  • •  Check for ticks on your body or clothing after returning from wooded or grassy areas and remove any ticks you find on you, your child or your pet (see instructions below). Keep in mind that nymph (young) ticks are very small (about the size of a poppy seed) so seek help to inspect areas not easily reachable areas. Be sure to look carefully in areas of the body where hair is present, since it may make it difficult to see the ticks. Adult ticks are about the size of an apple seed.
  • •  Remove ticks promptly (see instructions below).
  • •  Avoid walking in heavily wooded areas; try to stick to cleared paths.
  • •  Wear light-colored clothing to allow you to better see ticks that crawl on your clothing.
  • •  Apply repellents containing DEET to prevent ticks from attaching. Use according to manufacturer's instructions.
  • •  Wear long-sleeved shirts and tuck your pant legs into your socks so that ticks cannot crawl up the inside of your pant legs.
  • •  Speak to your veterinarian about tick prevention products for your pet dogs and cats.
  • •  Remove leaf litter and debris to reduce the likelihood of ticks around the home.
  • •  If you get a rash or a fever, let the doctor know if you may have been exposed to ticks, even if you don't remember having a tick bite.
Instructions for Removing Ticks

Ticks on people or pets should be removed immediately. Use tweezers or fingers to grasp them as close to the skin surface as possible, and pull up on the tick with slow, even pressure. Wash the area of a tick bite thoroughly with soap and water after the tick is removed to help reduce the likelihood of infection. Avoid squeezing or crushing the abdomen area. The use of matches, petroleum jelly or other home remedies is not in your best interest, as these methods do not work to remove ticks.

Number of cases of tick-borne diseases in New York City residents, 2001-2005
  2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
Babesiosis 18 18 22 17 21
Ehrlichiosis (or Anaplasmosis) 14 20 11 49 29
Lyme Disease 228 280 224 357 399
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever 2 10 14 23 7
Information about Tick-Borne Illnesses

The deer tick (Ixodes scapularis) transmits Lyme disease. Deer ticks are rarely found in New York City. Most cases of Lyme disease are contracted when New Yorkers travel outside of the City. Ticks that can transmit Lyme disease are present in many areas near New York City, including Long Island, upstate New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Transmission of Borrelia burgdorferi (the bacteria that causes Lyme disease) usually requires the tick to be attached for more than 24 hours. Prompt removal of an attached tick is recommended to help prevent infection. Approximately 80% of patients with Lyme disease develop a characteristic rash: usually a large (greater than 5 cm), reddish, slowly expanding spot around the bite. Other symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, malaise, and muscle/joint pain. Lyme disease can be diagnosed by blood test or the identification of the characteristic rash by a physician and is treated with antibiotics. If left untreated, complications such as meningitis, facial palsy, muscle/joint or heart abnormalities may occur. There is currently no approved vaccine for Lyme disease in humans. There were 399 cases of Lyme disease reported in New York City residents in 2005.

Babesiosis is an infectious disease also transmitted by the deer tick, although there have been reported cases of transfusion-associated transmission. Symptoms include fever, fatigue, jaundice, muscle pain, and anemia. The disease is more severe in patients who have weakened immune systems, who have no spleen, and/or who are elderly.  In 2005 there were 21 cases of babesiosis in New York City residents.

Ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis also can be transmitted to people – one transmitted by the lone star tick ( Amblyomma americanum) and the other by the deer tick – both of which affect white blood cells. Though diagnosis can be difficult, symptoms include the sudden onset of high fever, headache, muscle aches, chills, nausea, vomiting, joint pains, or loss of appetite. There were 29 cases of ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis in New Yorkers in 2005.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) is a serious disease that is primarily transmitted by the American dog tick ( Dermacentor variabilis) . Unlike most other tick-borne illness, RMSF can be acquired locally within New York City. Symptoms can include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite and muscle aches and pains. A spotted rash usually appears on the body including the palms and soles and may be accompanied by joint, abdominal pain and diarrhea. Transmission of Rickettsia rickettsii (the agent that causes RMSF) can occur in as little as 3-5 hours after a tick attaches to a person. Therefore, prompt removal of the tick after attachment is essential to preventing infection. In 2005 there were 7 cases of RMSF among residents of New York City. Recent findings suggest that RMSF is present all five boroughs of NYC

All of the tick-borne illnesses described above can be treated with antibiotics. Prompt and accurate diagnosis is important. If you think you may have a tick-borne illness you should see your health care provider immediately. For more information about tick-borne illness, visit nyc.gov/health.

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