DNREC, Division of Public Health Offer Tips About Ticks

An adult lone star tick in central Delaware. DNREC photo.

 

With spring heading into summer – prime time for ticks as well as for people getting outdoors – the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) has partnered with the Division of Public Health within the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) to educate the public about ticks, including where they are found, how to identify different types and what precautions to take before and after exposure to ticks, as well as information about tick-borne pathogens.

“Summer in Delaware is a great time to be outdoors enjoying Delaware’s state parks, wildlife areas, trails and waters,” said DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin. “However, time-honored summer activities like hiking, biking, fishing and even beachgoing and gardening can expose outdoor enthusiasts to unwanted guests – ticks. The good news is residents and visitors can take steps such as using repellent, wearing light-colored clothes and checking for ticks after being outdoors to reduce or prevent the chances of getting tick bites.”

“We encourage Delawareans to get outside to enjoy fitness and family time,” said DHSS Secretary Molly Magarik. “But we also urge people to take the proper precautions to protect themselves and others because tick bites can cause serious illness. In Delaware, the most common tick-borne illness is Lyme disease. Symptoms can include a ‘bull’s-eye’ rash (seen in approximately half of Lyme disease cases in Delaware), fever, fatigue, headache, and muscle and joint aches. Chronic joint, heart, and neurological problems may occur. We urge anyone bitten by a tick to monitor their health closely, and contact a physician if symptoms develop.”

Precautions to avoid or reduce tick exposure include:

  • Keep grass short and remove brush from the yard to reduce tick habitat.

    Long pants tucked into socks can help prevent tick exposure. DNREC photo.
    Long pants tucked into socks can help prevent tick exposure. DNREC photo.
  • Wear long sleeves and long pants tucked into socks and use repellent to help keep ticks off in areas with high tick populations.
  • Choose light colored clothing to make ticks easier to see.
  • When returning from outdoor activities, check for ticks and remove any from skin with tweezers as soon as possible to reduce the chance of disease transmission.
  • Following exposure to tick-prone areas or tick bites, watch for symptoms of common illnesses caused by tick-borne pathogens and seek medical attention as needed.

The DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife and the DHSS Division of Public Health work together year-round to study tick populations, species distribution, seasonality and disease risk to humans, including Lyme disease. The goal of the tick program is to better understand the biology and ecology of Delaware ticks and the problems they cause, including how to best cope with those problems.

Dr. Ashley Kennedy, DNREC Tick Program entomologist. DNREC photo.
Dr. Ashley Kennedy, DNREC Tick Program entomologist. DNREC photo.

For DNREC Tick Program entomologist Dr. Ashley Kennedy, part of that work includes statewide tick surveys to collect and identify types of ticks.

“Tick surveys provide information about the numbers and species of ticks found in Delaware, as well as information about tick-borne diseases, since certain diseases are associated with certain tick species,” said Dr. Kennedy. “Knowing what species of tick has attached to you, a family member, or a pet will help determine whether you may be at risk for a tick-borne disease.”

To help Delaware residents and visitors exposed to ticks, DNREC has launched a new online tick interactions form that asks when and where the interaction took place, contact information and a photo of the tick if available to help identify its species.

Read more about Dr. Kennedy’s work in “Tick-Tock – the Ticks Are Waiting” in Outdoor Delaware online magazine.

Other tick facts include:

  • In Delaware, ticks are everywhere, but most bites occur in backyards.
  • Ticks do not jump or fall out of trees; they wait on grass or other plants for a host to walk by so they can grab on.
  • Ticks are active year-round, not just in late spring/early summer which is prime “tick season.”
  • Several different types of ticks are found in Delaware, and several types can carry different pathogens that can infect humans including Lyme disease.

More information about ticks can be found at de.gov/ticks and de.gov/lyme.

About DNREC
The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control protects and manages the state’s natural resources, protects public health, provides outdoor recreational opportunities, and educates Delawareans about the environment. The DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife conserves and manages Delaware’s fish and wildlife and their habitats, and provides fishing, hunting, wildlife viewing and boating access on nearly 68,000 acres of public land. For more information, visit the website and connect with @DelawareDNREC on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Media Contacts: Joanna Wilson, joanna.wilson@delaware.gov; Michael Globetti, michael.globetti@delaware.gov


DNREC, DPH Offer Tips About Ticks

Summer in Delaware is all about the great outdoors – biking and hiking, backyard and beach days, gardening and grass cutting. These time-honored summer activities can expose outdoor enthusiasts to unwanted guests – ticks. Depending on the type of tick, their irritating bite can transmit a variety of pathogens that can cause illnesses ranging from mild to serious.

The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control in partnership with the Delaware Division of Public Health have launched new web pages to educate the public about ticks, including where they are found, how to identify different types and what precautions to take before and after exposure to ticks, as well as information about tick-borne pathogens.

Tick facts include:

  • Tick Biological Aide Sierra Quiles, demonstrating tick-safe attire: light-colored clothing and pants tucked into socks. DNREC photos.
    Tick Biological Aide Sierra Quiles, demonstrating tick-safe attire: light-colored clothing and pants tucked into socks. DNREC photos.

    In Delaware, ticks are everywhere, but most bites occur in backyards.

  • Ticks do not jump or fall out of trees; they wait on grass or other plants for a host to walk by so they can grab on.
  • Ticks are active year-round, not just in late spring/early summer which is prime “tick season.”
  • Several different types of ticks are found in Delaware, and several types can carry different pathogens that can infect humans including Lyme disease.

Recommended precautions include:

  • Keep grass short and remove brush from the yard to reduce tick habitat.
  • Wear long pants tucked into socks and long sleeves in areas with high tick populations to help keep ticks from reaching skin.
  • When returning from outdoor activities, check for ticks and remove any from skin as soon as possible to reduce the chance of disease transmission.
  • Following exposure to tick-prone areas or tick bites, watch for symptoms of common illnesses caused by tick-borne pathogens and seek medical attention as needed.

For more information, visit the DNREC website at de.gov/ticks and the DPH website at de.gov/lyme.

About DNREC
The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control protects and manages the state’s natural resources, protects public health, provides outdoor recreational opportunities, and educates Delawareans about the environment. The DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife conserves and manages Delaware’s fish and wildlife and their habitats, and provides fishing, hunting, wildlife viewing and boating access on nearly 65,000 acres of public land. For more information, visit the website and connect with @DelawareDNREC on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Media Contacts: Joanna Wilson, joanna.wilson@delaware.gov; Michael Globetti, michael.globetti@delaware.gov

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DPH Marking First Lyme Disease Awareness Week with Outreach, Education and Activities

DOVER  – Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne disease in the United States with approximately 20,000 new cases reported each year. Delaware is among the top 10 states in the United States with the highest incidence rates. In 2018, the Division of Public Health (DPH) reported 520 confirmed and probable cases in the state.

As both the frequency of tick bites and the occurrence of Lyme disease increase as the weather warms up, DPH is ramping up its BLAST Lyme Disease awareness campaign and its outreach efforts. This year, these efforts are aimed at educating both the general public and medical providers about tick bite prevention, and how to best diagnose and treat Lyme disease. Additionally, Senate Concurrent Resolution 43, sponsored by State Senator Ernesto B. Lopez (R – SD 6) and Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf (D – RD 14), recognizing May 19 – 25, 2019 as Lyme Disease Awareness Week in Delaware, passed both chambers on Thursday.

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection caused by the bites of blacklegged or deer ticks. Some, but not all, Lyme disease infections cause a red “bull’s eye” rash. Rashes can occur anywhere on the body and vary in size and shape. The rash can be warm to the touch and is usually not painful or itchy. Other symptoms are fever and/or chills, fatigue, muscle and joint aches, and headaches.

This week DPH epidemiologists are conducting interactive educational presentations at Delaware elementary and middle schools in order to increase awareness of tick-borne diseases, how to prevent tick bites, and how to safely remove ticks. Their efforts are an ongoing part of the BLAST campaign, which offer the presentations year-round to camps, schools and organizations. Any group or organization can request a presentation by calling 888-295-5156. BLAST is an acronym for remembering five simple steps you can take to protect yourself, family, and pets from Lyme disease:

• Bathe or shower within two hours of coming indoors.
• Look for ticks on your body and remove them.
• Apply repellent to your body and clothes.
• Spray your yard.
• Treat your pet.

Additionally, DPH is making poly-vinyl tick bite prevention trail signs available to all parks and municipalities statewide while supplies last. DPH will present nine of them to the Town of Milton on Wednesday, May 22 at 11:30 a.m. in Milton Memorial Park for posting at the entrances to the Town’s parks and walking trails. To reserve signs, call DPH at 302-744-4930. Also new this year are a series of short videos on tick bite prevention and removal (for humans and their pets) being added to DPH’s social media channels, and a short online survey for state employees to benchmark their awareness and knowledge of Lyme disease, and preventive and tick removal measures.

Most cases of Lyme disease can be cured with two to three weeks of antibiotics taken by mouth. However, a small percentage of patients with Lyme disease have symptoms like muscle and joint pains, arthritis, cognitive defects, sleep disturbance, and fatigue that last months or years after treatment with antibiotics, and can be challenging for the patient to live with. Also, Lyme disease can be difficult to diagnose, as not all patients with Lyme disease will develop the characteristic bull’s-eye rash, and tick exposures may often go undetected. Untreated infections can lead to severe joint pain and swelling (particularly the knees), loss of muscle tone on one or both sides of the face (called “Bell’s palsy”), dizziness, severe headaches and neck stiffness, and neurological problems.

To assist medical providers in diagnosing and treating Lyme disease, DPH has created educational flyers that will be distributed through state health care association partners. Also, since early recognition of Lyme disease decreases associated morbidity and promotes good health outcomes, DPH is providing links to two webinars that offer CEUs/CMEs on its website. A webinar produced by DPH and the Medical Society of Delaware describes the epidemiology (with particular emphasis on Delaware), early recognition, and prevention of Lyme disease. It is suitable for physicians, physician assistants, and all levels of nurses (i.e., advanced practice, RN, LPN) and can be found at: http://medicalthoughtleaders.com/MSD/LD/LD1.html through June 30, 2019. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also offers a free online course that teaches the proper identification and treatment of tick-borne diseases. Health care providers can visit https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/healthcare/index.html to learn more about the course and the credit hours available.

Other ongoing components of the BLAST Lyme Disease campaign includes print, radio, Facebook, and digital ads in English and Spanish, which began running in late April. DPH’s Lyme webpage at lyme.de/gov features detailed tick removal instructions and a printable poster of common symptoms, and a “Kids Korner” filled with engaging activities.

A person who is deaf, hard-of-hearing, deaf-blind or speech-disabled can call the DPH phone number above by using TTY services. Dial 7-1-1 or 800-232-5460 to type your conversation to a relay operator, who reads your conversation to a hearing person at DPH. The relay operator types the hearing person’s spoken words back to the TTY user. To learn more about TTY availability in Delaware, visit http://delawarerelay.com.

The Delaware Department of Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware’s citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations. DPH, a division of DHSS, urges Delawareans to make healthier choices with the 5-2-1 Almost None campaign: eat 5 or more fruits and vegetables each day, have no more than 2 hours of recreational screen time each day (includes TV, computer, gaming), get 1 or more hours of physical activity each day, and drink almost no sugary beverages.


DPH Launches Lyme Disease Awareness Campaign

DOVER — While many Delawareans couldn’t be happier to see spring’s arrival and winter’s departure, the Division of Public Health (DPH) is warning residents that with warm weather comes ticks, fleas, mosquitoes and increased chances of vector-borne diseases. Whether staying home or traveling in the coming months, DPH wants to remind Delawareans of the risk of these diseases, which include Lyme disease, Zika, and West Nile Virus, and to share prevention tips.

“While we want everyone to get outside and enjoy the weather, taking advantage of additional opportunities for family time and exercise, we also hope each person takes the proper precautions to protect themselves and others, especially children, as well as pets from the diseases that can potentially come with insect bites,” said DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay.

According to data just released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2016, Delaware reported 545 cases of tick borne diseases and 35 cases of mosquito borne diseases. The CDC listed Lyme disease as the state’s top tick borne disease, accounting for 93 percent (506) of the cases. DPH recently finalized its 2017 data and is reporting 608 cases of Lyme disease last year, an increase of more than 100 cases since 2016. The CDC believes that the actual number of Lyme disease cases nationwide is 10 times higher than what is reported to doctors or state and county health departments.

Since May is also Lyme Disease Awareness Month, DPH has launched a campaign titled, “BLAST Lyme disease,” which was adapted with permission from the Ridgefield, Connecticut, BLAST Program. The “BLAST” acronym is a simple way to remember five simple steps you can take to protect yourself, family, and pets from Lyme disease:
• Bathe or shower within two hours of coming indoors.
• Look for ticks on your body and remove them.
• Apply repellent to your body and clothes.
• Spray your yard.
• Treat your pet.

Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne disease in the United States with approximately 20,000 new cases reported each year. It is frequently characterized by an expanding red rash, commonly referred to as a “bull’s eye rash.” Rashes can occur anywhere on the body and vary in size and shape. The rash can be warm to the touch, but usually not painful or itchy. Not all patients will develop the characteristic rash. Other symptoms include fever and or chills, fatigue, muscle and joint aches, and headaches. Untreated infections can lead to symptoms including severe joint pain and swelling (usually large joints, particularly the knees), loss of muscle tone on one or both sides of the face (called “Bell’s palsy”), heart palpitations and dizziness, severe headaches and neck stiffness due to meningitis, and neurological problems (i.e., numbness or tingling in the hands or feet, problems with concentration and short-term memory).

The BLAST campaign will run through the summer and early fall months and includes advertisements on Facebook, several local websites, and Spanish-language publications. DPH has also updated its website to include fun activities for children to learn about Lyme disease called “Kids Korner,” and has detailed instructions for tick removal. To see these features and learn more about Lyme disease, visit de.gov/lyme.

Additionally, education packets have been sent to all public, private and charter schools, public libraries, and licensed summer camps. DPH is also mailing materials to pediatricians and family practice providers, coordinating with DNREC on outreach to state parks and providing email communications to community partners.

All of Delaware’s reported mosquito-borne diseases last year were travel-related and not spread through the bite of a mosquito locally. The CDC reported Delaware’s top mosquito-borne disease in 2016 as Zika (17 cases). Malaria accounted for another 16 cases, and Dengue for the last two.

Although Delaware has not had a reported Zika case since 2016, the disease still poses a threat, particularly to those traveling abroad and those who are, or may become, pregnant. Zika is a disease caused by a virus primarily transmitted through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito. Most people who are infected with Zika do not develop symptoms. About one in five people infected with the virus develop the disease and symptoms are generally mild. Anyone who lives or travels in the impacted areas can be infected.

Zika symptoms, typically include rash, fever, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The largest health impact of the Zika virus appears to be on infants whose mother was infected during pregnancy. There have been reports of a serious birth defect of the brain called microcephaly, a condition in which a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared to babies of the same sex and age, as well as other poor pregnancy outcomes. To learn about Zika risks and how to protect yourself from Zika, visit de.gov/zika.

A person who is deaf, hard-of-hearing, deaf-blind or speech-disabled can call the DPH phone number above by using TTY services. Dial 7-1-1 or 800-232-5460 to type your conversation to a relay operator, who reads your conversation to a hearing person at DPH. The relay operator types the hearing person’s spoken words back to the TTY user. To learn more about TTY availability in Delaware, visit http://delawarerelay.com.

Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware’s citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations. DPH, a division of DHSS, urges Delawareans to make healthier choices with the 5-2-1 Almost None campaign: eat 5 or more fruits and vegetables each day, have no more than 2 hours of recreational screen time each day (includes TV, computer, gaming), get 1 or more hours of physical activity each day, and drink almost no sugary beverages.


Fight the Bite: Stop Tick and Mosquito-Borne Diseases

DOVER – One of the best things about summer weather is more time outside. The Division of Public Health (DPH) urges people to get active and enjoy the outdoors in support of a healthy lifestyle.  The Division also reminds Delawareans to protect themselves from tick and mosquito bites before heading outside. Tick and mosquito bites can cause serious illnesses, and a few small steps, such as using insect repellent, can make a big difference.

In Delaware, the most common tick-borne disease is Lyme disease, which is transmitted to humans by the bite of infected deer ticks. Preliminary data for 2016 indicates there were 506 Lyme disease cases in Delaware.

Symptoms of Lyme disease can include a “bull’s-eye” rash (seen in approximately half of Lyme disease cases in Delaware), fever, fatigue, headache, and muscle and joint aches. Chronic joint, heart, and neurological problems may occur. It usually takes 24-36 hours of attachment before a tick transmits a disease. Anyone bitten by a tick should monitor their health closely, and contact a physician if symptoms develop.

While the attention in the last year has been on the connection between mosquitoes and Zika virus, mosquitoes can also carry West Nile virus (WNV), Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), and several other diseases that cause brain inflammation (encephalitis) and can be fatal to humans and animals. Infected mosquitoes transmit these diseases through their bites.

Approximately 80 percent of human WNV infections are mild and cause no apparent symptoms. The other 20 percent develop a mild illness (West Nile fever), which includes fever, body and muscle aches, headache, nausea, vomiting, and a rash. A small percentage of patients, usually the elderly, develop severe neurological disease that results in meningitis or encephalitis.

DPH recommends these precautions to protect yourself from ticks and mosquitoes

TICK PREVENTION

  • Avoid walking in wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter, as this is where ticks are most commonly found.
  • Walk in the center of hiking trails, not on the side.
  • Wear light-colored clothing to allow you to see ticks easily.
  • Wear long sleeves and long pants, and tuck pant legs into socks.
  • Apply tick repellents. Repellents containing permethrin can be sprayed on boots and clothing and will last for several days. Repellents containing DEET can be applied to the skin but will last only a few hours before reapplication is necessary. Use insect repellent containing less than 50 percent DEET for adults. Use repellent containing less than 30 percent DEET on children. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that repellents with DEET should not be used on infants less than two months old.
  • After being outdoors, check for ticks on yourself and your children (especially the head area), and pets, which should be treated with tick and flea preventive products. Ticks can ride home on pets, then attach to a person later.

TICK REMOVAL

  • Avoid removing ticks with bare hands to prevent the tick’s fluids from getting on your skin. Use fine-tipped tweezers, shielding fingers with a tissue, paper towel, or rubber gloves.
  • Grasp the tick close to the skin surface and pull upward steadily and evenly.
  • Dispose of the tick by flushing it. Cleanse the site of the tick bite with an antiseptic or soap and water, and wash your hands.

MOSQUITO PREVENTION

  • When outside, wear shoes, long-sleeved shirts, and pants.
  • Use mosquito netting to protect infants and young children in carriages, strollers, and playpens. Netting can protect one’s face and neck during long hikes. Mosquitoes are most active at dusk and during the early morning hours. However, mosquitoes that spread Zika virus are also active daytime biters.
  • Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents:
    • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for reapplication times.
    • Use insect repellent containing less than 50 percent DEET for adults.
    • Use repellent containing less than 30 percent DEET on children. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends using insect repellents containing 10 percent DEET.
    • Do not apply insect repellent onto a child’s hands, eyes, mouth, or on cut or irritated skin. Adults: spray insect repellent onto your hands and then apply to the child’s face.
    • AAP also recommends that repellents with DEET should not be used on infants less than two months old.
  • Prevent mosquitoes from entering the house by using screens and keeping windows and doorways tightly sealed. Mosquitoes prefer shallow water and tall vegetation. Eliminate standing water in your yard by changing birdbath water every four days, regularly draining pet dishes and plant pot saucers, and checking gutters, pool covers, and tarps for standing water. Store buckets, wheelbarrows, and wading pools upside down. Keep grass mowed.

For more information, visit cdc.gov and dhss.delaware.gov/dhss/dph/epi/lyme.html.

A person who is deaf, hard-of-hearing, deaf-blind or speech-disabled can call the DPH phone number above by using TTY services. Dial 7-1-1 or 800-232-5460 to type your conversation to a relay operator, who reads your conversation to a hearing person at DPH.  The relay operator types the hearing person’s spoken words back to the TTY user. To learn more about TTY availability in Delaware, visit http://delawarerelay.com.

Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware’s citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations. DPH, a division of DHSS, urges Delawareans to make healthier choices with the 5-2-1 Almost None campaign: eat 5 or more fruits and vegetables each day, have no more than 2 hours of recreational screen time each day (includes TV, computer, gaming), get 1 or more hours of physical activity each day, and drink almost no sugary beverages.