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New York City Seal
Press Release
New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene
Office of Public Affairs
CONTACT: Sandra Mullin/Greg Butler
Monday, July 1, 2002
(212) 788-5290
(877) 640-1347


As New Yorkers spend time outdoors this summer, New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) Commissioner Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH reminded New Yorkers to protect themselves against ticks, which may carry serious diseases such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

"Taking simple measures to avoid tick bites is the most effective way to prevent tick-borne diseases," said Dr. Frieden. "Most cases of tick-borne illness in New York City are contracted by City residents who spend time in wooded or grassy areas outside of the five boroughs. When visiting grassy or wooded areas this summer - either in New York City or the surrounding region - New Yorkers should check themselves and their pets daily for ticks. Additionally, New Yorkers should consider wearing long-sleeve shirts and pants, tuck socks into pants when outdoors in wooded areas, and use tick repellants that contain DEET."

Last month, DOH issued a bulletin to all area doctors to raise awareness of tick and mosquito-borne diseases. The June 2002 issue of City Health Information entitled "Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases in New York City - An Update" encourages doctors to perform appropriate diagnostic measures and report suspected cases of mosquito and tick-borne diseases to DOH. The bulletin is available at

Lyme disease can be carried by the deer tick, which can be as small as a sesame seed. Symptoms may develop within a week to a few months of a bite from an infected tick, and may include a large circular rash (greater than 2 inches in diameter) with or without a clearing in the center, fever, headache, fatigue, stiff neck, and pain in muscles or joints. Severe complications, including meningitis, arthritis, and heart problems can develop if Lyme disease is left untreated. Lyme disease transmission, however, only occurs if a tick is attached for longer than 36 hours.

Between 1997 and 2000, over 820 cases of Lyme disease have been reported among people living in New York City, with the vast majority of those cases linked to travel outside of the City to areas at higher risk for Lyme disease.

All people working or recreating in areas where ticks can be found must continue to guard against ticks. For example, the deer tick which carries the Lyme bacterium can also transmit babesiosis (60 cases reported in NYC since 1997), with symptoms that can include fever, fatigue, jaundice, and anemia; and ehrlichiosis (13 cases reported in NYC since 1999), with symptoms that can include the sudden onset of a high fever, headache, muscle aches, chills, nausea, vomiting, joint pains, or loss of appetite.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) can be spread by the bite of a different type of tick, the American dog tick. RMSF is characterized by rashes, particularly on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet, the sudden onset of high fever, severe headache, fatigue, deep muscle pain, and chills. Symptoms usually appear within two weeks of the bite of an infected tick. In extreme cases, RMSF can be fatal. The American dog tick is very common in New York City parks, as well as in areas surrounding New York City. While local transmission of RMSF has been documented in NYC parks, the infection is very uncommon. There have been 13 cases of RMSF diagnosed since in 1997, with most cases acquired in New York City.

Precautions Against Ticks
Dr. Frieden recommended taking the following precautions when outdoors in areas where ticks may be present:

  • Walk on cleared trails instead of overgrown areas, but still check everyday for ticks attached to clothing or skin. Check yourself, children, and pets again for ticks when returning indoors. Feel for bumps on the skin and examine those spots closely to see if the bump is a tick.
  • Insect repellents that contain DEET can be helpful, but should be used sparingly and with care - especially on children. Make sure to follow instructions on the product's label, and use as indicated.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants with the legs tucked into socks, and closed-toe shoes when in grassy or wooded areas of parks, beaches, and other vegetated areas. Remember, ticks are easier to see on light-colored clothing.
  • Ticks on people or pets should be properly 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 of the tick, and do not use matches, petroleum jelly or other home remedies, as these methods do not work to remove ticks.

To help prevent tick-borne diseases, DOH collects comprehensive information on individuals infected with tick-borne agent to identify areas in and out of New York City where people may be at risk for tick-borne diseases. For more information, visit