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Press Release

Press Release # 039-07
Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Andrew Tucker (


NEW YORK CITY – May 23, 2007 – Tick-borne diseases, such as Lyme disease, have been increasing among New York City residents since 2003, and the Health Department today reminded New Yorkers to protect themselves against ticks when they are outdoors this summer. The vast majority of Lyme disease cases in New York City are acquired outside of the five boroughs, in areas where the type of tick that transmits Lyme disease (Ixodes scapularis) is found. There were 307 cases of Lyme disease reported in 2006.

"Lyme disease is rare in New York City, but it's more common among our residents who travel outside of the five boroughs," said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas R. Frieden. "While the number of tick related illnesses has fluctuated recently, there has been a steady increase over the past few years. This may be due to better disease surveillance and reporting, but there also may be a true rise in tick-related disease. New Yorkers should take precautions such as wearing long sleeves and socks when outdoors and using an insect repellent containing DEET."

Prevent Tick-Bites and Tick-Borne Illness

  • Check for ticks on your body (including your armpits, scalp, and groin) or clothing after returning from wooded or grassy areas. Some ticks are very small (about the size of a poppy seed) so ask for help to inspect areas that you cannot see yourself
  • Quickly remove any ticks you find using fine-tipped tweezers if possible.
  • Avoid walking in heavily wooded areas; try to stick to cleared paths.
  • Apply insect repellents that contain DEET (use according to manufacturer's instructions). Other repellents such as picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus (also used to prevent mosquito bites) may provide some protection, but there is limited information about their effectiveness against ticks.
  • Wear light-colored clothing to allow you to better see ticks that crawl on your clothing.
  • 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.

How to Remove Ticks

Use tweezers to grasp them as close to your skin's surface as possible, and pull up on the tick with slow, even pressure. Avoid squeezing or crushing the tick's body. After the tick is removed, wash the bite area thoroughly with soap and water to help reduce the chance of infection. Using matches, petroleum jelly or other home remedies do not work well to remove ticks.

Tick-borne Diseases in New York City, 2001-2006*

Lyme disease is transmitted by the deer tick. Most New York City cases are contracted outside of the City, in Long Island, upstate New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Most people with Lyme disease develop a characteristic rash: a red, slowly expanding spot around the bite. Other symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and muscle/joint pain. Lyme disease can be diagnosed by blood test and is treated with antibiotics. If left untreated, it can cause meningitis, facial palsy, muscle/joint or heart abnormalities.

Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) is a serious disease that is usually transmitted by the American dog tick. RMSF can be acquired in all boroughs of New York City. Symptoms can include spotted rash fever, headache, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite and muscle aches and pains.

Babesiosis is another infection transmitted by the deer tick. Symptoms include fever, fatigue, jaundice, muscle pain, and anemia. The disease is more severe in patients who have weakened immune systems.

Anaplasmosis is also transmitted by the deer tick. 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. Ehrlichiosis is transmitted by the lone star tick. The symptoms are similar to anaplasmosis.

All of the tick-borne illnesses described above can be treated with antibiotics. If you think you may have a tick-borne illness you should see your health care provider immediately.