PLATTSBURGH — Although the lazy days of summer are rapidly coming to an end, the reality of Lyme disease will remain for some weeks to come.
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that is spread to humans by the bite of an infected deer tick. The adult tick is the size of a sesame seed and remains active in forests and fields until temperatures drop in late October or even early November.
Until then, the ticks are actively looking for hosts to provide them with a good meal.
"They are difficult to see because they are so tiny," said Karen Merrill, a public-health nurse for the Clinton County Health Department.
"Not all deer ticks carry Lyme disease, but Lyme disease is prevalent in New York state. We need to focus on prevention and awareness."
GET RID OF IT QUICK
Deer ticks position themselves on vegetation, where they can hitch a ride with an animal or person passing by. They will then find a spot to feed off the host, often in such places as behind the knee — where they may not be spotted for days.
"It often takes two or three days (from the initial bite) for the tick to transmit illness," said Clinton County Public-Health Nurse Karen Plotas-McGrath.
"If you see a tick (on the body), it's important to remove the insect as quickly as possible."
Clinton County has seen an increase in confirmed cases of Lyme disease this year. In 2010, the county reported 11 positive cases, and that number jumped to 16 in both 2011 and 2012.
However, there are already confirmed 27 cases during the first half of 2013.
"We're just now getting into peak season," Plotas-McGrath noted.
Essex County, which saw more than 40 positive cases in 2009 before numbers dropped to 25 a year later, has seen increased activity as well.