Farmland in the Finger Lakes region on a sunny day.

Protection Against Lyme Disease and Other Tick-Borne Diseases

Protection Against Lyme Disease and Other Tick-Borne Diseases

Overview

According to data released from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2019, New York State is ranked second in the number of confirmed Lyme disease cases in the United States. That year, there were 2,847 confirmed cases in the state. Lyme disease is a disease transmitted through the bite of infected ticks carrying the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. With higher average temperatures due to climate change, our environment is becoming increasingly hospitable for this disease. Warmer winters can mean a lengthier tick exposure period.

It is critical that people take cautionary measures for reducing the vulnerability to Lyme disease and its health outcomes. People who work outdoors, like farmers and farmworkers, are especially at risk for being in contact with ticks as they are often in proximity to woodlands and working in high grass areas like pastures. Livestock owners are also particularly vulnerable to tick exposure because they tend large animals like cattle, which can host ticks.

How You Can Protect Yourself

Read below to learn how to protect yourself, including learning the common ticks in New York, how to avoid contact, how to check for ticks, and more.

Learn How to Identify Ticks

The three most common ticks in New York State are:

  1. the blacklegged tick,
  2. the American dog tick, and
  3. the lone star tick.

All three ticks are widely distributed across New York and each tick transmits a set of pathogens. The blacklegged tick can carry Borrelia burgdorferi and B. mayonii which cause Lyme disease. Learn more information about each tick species.

Ticks live in grasses, brushes, and wooded areas where they hold onto the tips of shrubs and grasses, waiting for a host to brush by. When the tick detects a host, it quickly latches onto their skin. In addition, ticks can attach themselves onto an animal's fur or hide, making animals potential tick hosts. Farmers must be aware of tick exposure before and after working outdoors and with their livestock.

Avoid Contact with Ticks
  1. Spray your clothing, socks, and shoes with products containing 0.5% permethrin. You can look up your product on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) search tool.
  2. Wear long sleeves and tuck your pants into your socks.

Watch the video below to learn more from the New York State Department of Health.

 
Self-Check Protocol (adapted from CDC)
  1. As soon as you arrive home, tumble dry your clothes on high heat for at least 10 minutes to kill any ticks that latched onto your clothes.
  2. Examine pets, clothes, and any equipment you bring indoors.
  3. Shower within two hours of being indoors as this may help wash off unattached ticks.
  4. Check your body for ticks using a mirror and examine:
    1. under your arms,
    2. in/around your ears,
    3. inside your belly button,
    4. on the back of your knees,
    5. in/around your hair,
    6. between your legs, and
    7. around your waist.
If You Find a Tick

Watch the New York State Department of Health video below to learn more about what to do it you find a tick.

Additionally, use the Tick Bite Bot tool from the CDC to assist with removing ticks and seeking medical attention.

Lyme Disease Symptoms
  1. When they appear: The incubation period for ticks is between 3 to 30 days. This means in general, for Lyme disease to spread, the infected tick needs to be attached for at least 36 to 48 hours and early symptoms appear within 3 to 30 days.
  2. Symptoms include: erythema migrans rash, malaise, headache, and fever. More information can be found on New York State Department of Health’s fact sheet of symptoms.
  3. Treatment: If you believe that you contracted Lyme disease, you must immediately notify a medical professional to receive proper treatment.
Circular red rash
Classic erythema migrans rash

When You Should Protect Yourself

Any time you are working outdoors (in spring, summer, and fall), ensure that you learn and follow the protective measures above. Adult ticks may be looking for hosts on any days that have above freezing temperatures.