Pike County hosted a symposium to shed light on tick-borne diseases

Pennsylvania leads the nation in Lyme disease cases, and the warmer months are the peak of tick season.

To share important information about Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses, Pike County hosted a health symposium on Saturday, July 30. Here are six key points to help the public avoid and respond to these diseases.

Stay alert in your own backyard

People might think ticks are a concern while hiking or camping, said Jamie DelCane, public health research coordinator at the University of East Stroudsburg’s Pennsylvania Tick Research Lab. However, data from the lab shows that about 54% of people submitting a tick for a test had “exposure to ticks from their own backyard”, she said.

Homeowners can reduce their risk by mowing short grass, reducing leaf litter and wood piles, allowing more sunlight, and ensuring children’s play areas are not too close to woods (at least 9 feet away), DelCane said. Tick ​​sprays can also be used in the yard, in addition to wearing permethrin-treated clothing.

Even if you enjoy deer watching in your yard, a fence will help keep deer away that may be carrying ticks. “We want to reduce the encouraging wildlife in the yard, so we don’t want to feed that wildlife,” DelCane said.

Of interest:A university in the Poconos is about to test a tick vaccine in mice. Will this help?

You could have Lyme without the target rash

You may be familiar with the idea that a target-like rash is an indication of Lyme disease. It may be, but don’t assume you’re safe if you don’t see this specific rash after a tick bite.

The rash may not be obvious on darker skin tones, or it may not have that target shape at all, said Grant Gallagher of Medical Diagnostic Laboratories. Other infections can also be mistaken for Lyme disease, he added.

Your dog is also at risk

Most dogs that get Lyme disease have no clinical signs, but some have severe symptoms.

About 10% of dogs with Lyme develop arthritis, which affects the joints, and 1 to 2% develop nephritis, which affects the kidneys, said veterinarian Amy Platko-Williams, owner of Friends For Life Veterinary Care in Honesdale. With nephritis, “unfortunately, most patients who contract this disease die.”

Dogs with arthritis “look like they’re walking on eggshells,” Platko-Williams said. Their joints are hot and swollen, and symptoms also include fever, lethargy, swollen lymph nodes, and not eating or drinking. “Generally, however, they respond quite quickly to antibiotics,” she said.

Symptoms of nephritis include drinking more water, urinating frequently, dehydration, lethargy, not eating, vomiting, and unsteadiness. There are treatments that “help maintain kidney function for as long as possible,” Platko-Williams said, but ultimately Lyme nephritis is deadly.

She recommended keeping dogs out of “high tick areas” (walking in the center of a trail, not next to the grassy edge), inspecting your pet for ticks and removing them, using a product against fleas and ticks and vaccinating your dog for Lyme disease.

After:These Poconos counties are more likely to carry Lyme disease than the rest of Pennsylvania

Red meat allergy is real

Not everyone exposed to a tick should give up burgers and steaks.

But you can develop “a real, genuine red meat allergy,” Gallagher said.

There’s a type of sugar found in tick saliva that isn’t found in humans, he said. The allergy is part of an immune response that some people have after coming into contact with this sugar.

Patients may also develop a rash or hives, Gallagher said, along with “nausea, vomiting, severe abdominal pain if most of your reaction is in your gut, difficulty breathing if most part of the reaction is in your lungs”. It may become necessary to carry an EpiPen in the event of a life-threatening anaphylactic reaction.

Simple preventive measures will reduce your risk

Exposure to ticks carries serious risks, but fortunately the preventive measures are simple.

Wear light colors (ideally long sleeves and pants tucked into socks) so ticks are easier to see, DelCane advised. Wear a hat and keep your hair long in a ponytail. Treat your clothes with permethrin sprays or examine pre-treated clothes.

The less time a tick spends on a person, the less chance there is of a disease being transmitted. Check carefully for ticks and shower as soon as you can, and kill any ticks left on your clothes by putting them in the dryer on high for 10 minutes, DelCane said.

If you need to remove a tick, use tweezers or a specialized removal tool to “grab the tick as close to the base of the mouthparts as possible and pull up and out,” DelCane said.

Ticks can be removed with tweezers or with specialized removal tools like this, provided to attendees of a symposium hosted by the Pike County Tick-Borne Disease Task Force on Saturday, July 30, 2022 .

Resources are available

The Tick-Borne Disease Wellness Center opened at the Pike Family Health Center (750 Pennsylvania Route 739, Lords Valley) in 2019.

Providers recommend treatments and connect patients to support groups, said Ellen Scarisbrick, a Wayne Memorial Hospital employee and member of the Pike County Tick-Borne Disease Task Force. The center takes out insurance and has a sliding scale.

The Pennsylvania Tick Research Laboratory at the University of East Stroudsburg tests ticks to see what disease-causing pathogens they were carrying. A basic testing panel is free for Pennsylvania residents, and additional testing is offered at lower rates. Go to ticklab.org for more information.

“It’s important to know that we actually keep the tick specimen for about two years,” DelCane said, so someone who initially gets a basic panel can pay for additional testing (including less common pathogens). ) later if necessary.

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