Lyme Disease Awareness MonthMay is Lyme Disease Awareness month, marking the beginning of tick season for many Americans and the period of greatest risk of a tick bite from late spring through early summer. Throughout the month, Home Paramount representatives will wear lime green gloves and booties during our services to spread awareness about this serious disease and its link to ticks.
Lyme Disease is one of the fastest growing vector-borne illness, and researchers estimate that more than 329,000 cases of Lyme disease occur in the United States each year. The cases are concentrated in the Northeast and upper Midwest, with 14 states accounting for over 96% of the cases reported to the Center for Disease Control. Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia all report high incidences of Lyme Disease. If you live or work in these states, Lyme Disease awareness is critical and tick prevention is recommended.
Lyme Disease is most commonly associated with the bite of a deer tick, also known as a black legged tick, although many people never develop the tell-tale bullseye rash or even realize that they have been bitten. Deer ticks are notoriously small arachnids, and biologically developed to avoid detection. They have a life cycle of about two years and go through four life phases: egg, larva, nymph and adult. They feed on animal blood to advance through their life stages, and can become disease vectors after feeding on an animal with the bacteria. That explains why rodent and wildlife control in your yard is also essential to prevention.
Ticks cannot fly or jump. Instead, their “questing” begins on the tip of a blade of grass or the leaf of a shrub. They grasp their position with their lower legs and keep their upper pair of legs outstretched, waiting for the chance to transfer to a host. The tick crawls onto you when you pass by, and then finds an ideal place to bite.
Once the tick finds a feeding spot, it grasps the skin, cuts the surface and inserts its feeding tube. Anyone who has experienced a tick bite knows that these arachnids are firmly attached. This is mainly due to barbs along the feeding tube that keep the tick in place. Some species also secrete a substance that cements them to their host. Feeding can take 10 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the life cycle of the tick.
If you remove a tick quickly, you reduce your chances of contracting Lyme Disease. Experts believe that it takes a period of time for the bacteria to transfer, so a quick response is recommended. Of course, this is easier said than done. Adult ticks tend to be larger so it is much more likely that you will be able to find them. Nymphs are about the size of a poppy seed and incredibly difficult to see. Besides choosing a discreet spot on your body, ticks also tend to launch a covert attack by secreting anesthetic saliva as they feed. You can’t feel them and so their feeding remains uninterrupted. A tick in any life stage may transmit Lyme Disease, but the CDC believes that most people are infected by nymphs – ticks in their immature phase.
Lyme Disease is a bacterial infection and called “The Great Imitator” because its symptoms mimic other diseases. It is a debilitating disease and its symptoms include fatigue, headache, muscle aches, joint pain and a rash. It has the potential to affect any and every organ, including the brain, the heart, muscles, joints and the nervous systems. Some people experience a dramatic swelling of a knee which signals the presence of the disease, while others develop Bell’s Palsy – a paralysis of the face. Patients with Lyme Disease are sometimes misdiagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, depression and other unexplained conditions which match the symptoms but fail to trace back to the cause.
Given the difficulty of detection, both related to the tick and the disease, prevention is an excellent course of action for the concerned homeowner. There are some simple steps that you can take to reduce the risk of ticks in your yard and fight the growing rates of Lyme Disease:
- Clear tall grasses and brush around your home and at the edge of your yard. Remember, ticks are questing on tall grasses hoping to crawl onto you. Don’t give them the opportunity.
- Keep playground equipment away from the edge of the yard. Place it in a central, sunny spot in the lawn.
- Install wood chips or gravel between the lawn and wooded areas, especially around playground equipment. This will keep the ticks on their side of the fence, so to speak.
- Mow your lawn frequently. This is an easy way to cut down on ticks, pun intended.
- Stack wood away from the house and in a dry area to avoid a rodent infestation. Ticks feed on rodents, who may carry the Lyme Disease bacteria. Best to avoid both the rodents and the ticks.
- Have your lawn treated by Home Paramount for ticks and mosquitoes. Our affordable, convenient service reduces tick and mosquito populations and gives you control over your yard.