Tick season: Take precautions and watch for signs of Lyme disease

WASHINGTON – It’s the time of year when people headed to wooded areas need to protect themselves from ticks that may carry Lyme disease.

In 2012, there were 1,110 known cases of Lyme disease in Virginia.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 96 percent of Lyme disease cases in 2011 came from 13 states, including Virginia and Maryland.

The disease, carried by the blacklegged tick, also known as the deer tick, can be deadly if left untreated or debilitating if not caught early.

Virginia Department of Health entomologist David Gaines says people can protect themselves by wearing long pants and long sleeves in wooded areas and by using insect repellent on shoes, lower legs and arms.

In some cases those precautions might even include the backyard.

“If your backyard has a lot of leaf litter and a lot of shade from trees, it is potentially something you can get in your backyard,” says Gaines.

In wooded areas, ticks will be in places where people step.

“Contrary to popular mythology, the blacklegged tick that transmits Lyme disease does not climb up onto vegetation.”

But if ticks make their way onto clothes, they can make their way to the body. If they are found there, the ticks should be removed right away. Skin should then be monitored for any reaction, such as red bumps and a rash that expands like a bull’s-eye pattern.

If a rash with flu-like symptoms occurs, it’s time to see a doctor.

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