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Tick-Borne Infections - Take Steps to Prevent Them

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Tick-Borne Infections - Take Steps to Prevent Them

Friday, August 2, 2019

The first known case of Powassan virus in 2019, a rare tick-borne infection, was reported in New York State earlier this week. A resident of Ulster County died after contracting this disease. The virus can cause symptoms ranging from mild, flu-like symptoms to life threatening encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). In New York State, there are 1 to 2 cases of Powassan virus per year.

Frank Kruppa, Public Health Director states, “While Powassan virus is extremely rare, this is an important reminder to take preventive measures. Avoiding tick bites is your best defense against tick-borne infection.” 

Ticks may be different sizes depending on their stage of life. Nymphs are about the size of a poppy seed, making them hard to spot. Ticks live in shaded, moist areas at ground level. They cling to tall grass, brush, and shrubs, at the edge of woods, along trails, in leaf piles and around old stone walls, waiting for a passerby to come along so they can climb aboard. 

Here are important steps to keep in mind:

  • Wear light-colored clothing and enclosed shoes. Tuck pants into socks and shirts into pants when walking in wooded and grassy areas or when gardening. 
  • Use repellents with 20%-30% DEET. Be sure to follow label directions. Do not allow children to apply repellents themselves. 
  • Shower after being outdoors. Put clothing into the dryer to kill any remaining ticks that you may not have seen.
  • Do a daily full body tick check. Pay close attention to the back of the knees, behind the ears, scalp, arm pits, groin area and back. Check children and pets too.
  • Remove a tick as soon as possible to decrease the chance of infection. 
  • Use a pair of fine tipped tweezers, grasping the tick near the mouthparts, as close to your skin as possible. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Wash the bite area with soap and water.

Often people are not aware of a tick bite until symptoms appear. These may include severe fatigue, flu-like symptoms, headache, fever, joint swelling, facial paralysis or rash. Some people may experience a sudden red lesion, “bull’s-eye rash,” on their body. If you experience these symptoms, contact your health care practitioner as soon as possible.

Check out these videos about proper tick removal and safety: https://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/lyme/

To learn more about Tick-borne infection, call the Tompkins County Health Department at 274-6604 or visit the Department’s website: http://tompkinscountyny.gov/health/summer/ticks

Find the Health Department on Facebook @TompkinsPublicHealth and on Twitter @TompkinsHealth