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Experts warn of tick threat during Tick-borne Disease Awareness Month

Monday - 5/12/2014, 12:17pm  ET

Deer (WTOP/Kristi King)
If you see deer in your backyard, there may be ticks as well, says State Public Health Veterinarian Katherine Feldman. (WTOP/Kristi King)

WASHINGTON -- Maryland's governor wants you to "Get Ticked Off!" and it might be a good idea regardless of where you live.

May has been proclaimed Tick-borne Disease Awareness Month in Maryland.

"We want to get the message out to folks to take precautions," State Public Health Veterinarian Katherine Feldman tells WTOP.

There were more than 1,650 cases of Lyme disease reported in Maryland in 2012. In Virginia, 1,110 confirmed or probable cases of Lyme disease in 2012 represent a jump of about nine percent from 2011.

People might not realize they can pick up ticks even in their back yards, Feldman says.

"The tick that transmits Lyme disease and a couple of other diseases really likes deer," says Feldman.

So "if you see deer in your neighborhood, there's a good chance ticks have come off that deer at some point and could be in your environment," she adds.

To avoid ticks, stay away from brushy areas, high grass and leaf litter.

Insect repellent with 20-50 percent DEET can be used on clothes and exposed skin.

"Permethrin is great on your clothes," says Feldman.

That insecticide is not appropriate for use directly on skin. But permethrin "pre-treated clothing will last through a whole lot of washes," she says.

The Environmental Protection Agency finds permethrin factory-treated clothing is effective in repelling a numbers of pests.

Also, Feldman recommends showering after coming in from outdoors to wash away ticks and to get out of clothes in which ticks may be hiding.

As creepy as it may seem to play host to a blood-sucking creature, ticks carrying Lyme disease need to be attached to a person for at least 24 hours to transmit the disease.

Ticks should be removed using fine-tipped tweezers grasping the critter as close to the skin as possible. Wash the bite site with soap and water or an antiseptic.

Lyme disease is the most common ailment transmitted by infected ticks in this region.

Symptoms of Lyme disease can include fever, chills, headache, fatigue and possibly a bull's eye shaped rash in the bite site area, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Tick-related disease prevention is an issue for health officials region-wide.

Loudoun County plans to post signs at trail heads and parking lots of recreational areas to help prevent tick-borne diseases. First though, the county wants public comment on the proposed tick awareness sign.

The sign advises people to wear repellent, check for ticks daily, promptly remove ticks with tweezers, shower soon after being outside, and call a doctor if experiencing a rash or fever.

Comments should be emailed to prcs@loudoun.gov before May 31, 2014.

"We want people to go outside and enjoy the outdoors, but we want people to do that safely," says Feldman.

A brochure with tick prevention and response advice as well as Lyme disease information is available on the Maryland Department if Health and Mental Hygiene website.

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