PLATTSBURGH — Though temperatures are cooling, ticks and the diseases they carry are still a risk for people and pets of the North Country.
“We have had some frost, but not enough frost to kill the areas where these ticks could still be harbored,” said Laurie Williams, public health education coordinator for the Clinton County Health Department.
According to the State Department of Health website, blacklegged ticks, also known as deer ticks, can be active anytime the temperature is above freezing. They are most prevalent from March to mid May and from mid August to November.
The insects can serve as carriers for a number of ailments, most commonly Lyme disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
Local health department records confirm Lyme disease cases have increased across the tri-county area.
Clinton County reported 45 confirmed cases so far in 2013, up from 21 cases during all of 2012.
Franklin County’s 30 incidences this year top the total of 12 last year.
Essex County reported 65 cases, more than doubling the 32 in 2012.
‘GET IT OUT’
Residents are encouraged to follow Centers for Disease Control guidelines, said Susan Allott, director of prevention services at the Essex County Public Health Department.
People visiting wooded areas or moving through tall grass should wear long-sleeved shirts and tuck pant legs into their footwear.
Insect repellents should be made of 20 to 30 percent of the chemical DEET for maximum effectiveness and be applied to any clothing or exposed skin in tick habitats.
Clothing pre-treated with the insecticide permethrin is also available for purchase.
Afterward being outdoors, it’s recommended to search one’s body, as well as any children, pets or traveling equipment, for ticks that might have latched on.
If a tick is found, Franklin County Public Health Director Kathleen Strack said, it should be removed immediately and carefully.
“Don’t smother it, don’t put Vaseline on it, don’t do anything other than get a tweezer and get the tick out of your skin,” she said.
Early symptoms of Lyme disease can take up to two weeks to be noticed after infection, Strack said, and not all infected people have the familiar bulls-eye mark as an identifier.
After the first two weeks, those infected with the disease will begin to feel flu-like symptoms, including body aches, runny or stuffy nose and runny eyes.
“Then you may go through a period of things being quiet, but that organism is multiplying and doing its problems to your body,” she said.
Later symptoms can include joint paint and swelling, severe headaches and facial paralysis.
Strack said negative results on blood tests taken shortly after Lyme disease infection could be incorrect, as the disease has to have time to multiply in the bloodstream before symptoms begin to show and it can be reliably detected.