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Press Release
New York City Department of Health
Office of External Affairs
Wednesday, April 30, 1997
Contact: John Gadd
(212) 788-5290


With the weather getting warmer and more people spending time outdoors, Acting Health Commissioner Benjamin Mojica, M.D., today advised New Yorkers to take precautions to avoid ticks and the diseases they can carry, such as Lyme disease. Ticks are most active and most likely to bite people and animals from this time of year through October.

Dr. Mojica said, "Ticks which can carry diseases have been found throughout New York State, particularly in areas near New York City. Though they are less common in New York City itself, New Yorkers need to be aware of them, especially if they travel to forested areas or beaches. Deer ticks, which may carry potentially serious Lyme disease, are very small, only about the size of sesame seed, and are therefore easily overlooked."

People who walk in grassy or wooded areas, including those adjacent to beaches, should be especially alert to the possible presence of ticks. Pets in these areas could be affected, also.

  • It is a sensible precaution to wear long sleeved shirts, long pants with the legs tucked into socks, and closed toe shoes in tick infected areas.

  • Ticks are easier to see on light-colored clothing.

  • Insect repellants which contain DEET can be helpful, but should be used only sparingly and with care, especially on children, and should be washed off when returning indoors.

  • When outdoors in tick infected areas, check every 2 to 3 hours for ticks attached to the clothing or skin. Check children and pets carefully. Check yourself, children, and pets again for ticks when returning indoors.

  • Look for ticks in all joint areas, the navel, behind ears, in the hairline, and in other skin folds.
Dr. Mojica said, "Ticks on people or pets should be removed as soon as possible, but do not try to remove them with your bare hands. Use tweezers to grasp them as close to the skin surface as possible, and pull up on the tick with slow, even pressure to gradually ease out the mouth parts. Wash the area of a tick bite thoroughly with soap and water after the tick is removed. Do not squash or squeeze the tick, and do not use heat, nail polish remover, or petroleum jelly to remove them; any of those might actually increase the risk of infection."

Lyme disease is carried by only one type of tick, the tiny deer tick, and not all deer ticks carry it. Symptoms may develop within a week to a few months of a bite from an infected tick, and may include rash, 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. There were 400 cases of Lyme disease among people living in New York City in 1996.

Other tick-borne diseases, though relatively rare in New York City, include Rocky Mountain Spotted fever, which is characterized by the sudden onset of a high fever, severe headache, fatigue, deep muscle pain, chills, and rash (17 cases in NYC in 1996); babesiosis, with symptoms that can include fever, fatigue, jaundice, anemia (8 cases in NYC in 1996); and ehrlichiosis, with symptoms that can include the sudden onset of a high fever, headache, muscle aches, chills, nausea, vomiting, joint pains, or loss of appetite (newly reportable disease in New York City).

Fact sheets from the New York City Department of Health are available on Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, babesiosis, and ehrlichiosis.

The New York City Department of Health, in cooperation with the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Department of Sanitation, the New York State Department of Health, and Fordham University, is conducting a comprehensive study this summer to identify areas in New York City which may be at higher risk for tick-borne diseases, to aid in future prevention and treatment efforts.NYC DOH Public Information