May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month

May 12, 2014

In observance of National Lyme Disease Awareness Month, Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment or RISE wants to protect families from tick bites that can transmit Lyme disease, and empower homeowners to be their own “Backyard Boss,” reducing outdoor risks that attract unwanted pests like ticks.

Recent research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates about 300,000 people are diagnosed with Lyme disease annually. The disease is also known as “The Great Imitator,” as it shows symptoms that mimic many other diseases, making it difficult to diagnose. This means the number of U.S. cases each year could be significantly higher.

The Public Education forum for Tick-Borne Illnesses held May 8 in Rockland was a success, according to Knox County Emergency Management Agency Director Ray Sisk. More than 50 people attended the program led by a panel of experts who gave information on ticks, illnesses related to ticks, tick management and personal protection strategies.

Panelist’s included: Kyle Ravenna, Maine State Deer Biologist; LeBelle Hicks, Toxicologist with the Maine Board of Pesticides Control; Megan Kelly, Epidemiologist, Maine CDC; Dr. Yyvette LaHaye, Searsport Animal Hospital; Eleanor Lacombe, Researcher MMC Research Institute, and Paul McFarland, owner, Tick-Talk, of Rockport.

Sponsors will be working to get a video recording of the forum posted on YouTube and local access TV. The Connecticut Tick Management Handbook, requested by several participants, has been posted on the Knox County EMA website at knoxcountymaine.gov/ema.

Awareness and prevention

According to Phyllis Mervine, founder and president of LymeDisease.org, awareness and prevention are two key components in combating Lyme disease.

“As a disease that leaves those affected with a lower quality of life, increased susceptibility for doctor visits, and at times the inability to work or take part in everyday activities, families should be motivated to learn what to look for and how to prevent exposure so their families and children are able to enjoy the outdoors safely,” said Mervine.

In fact, a recent LymeDisease.org survey — the largest ever conducted on people with Lyme disease — reported more than 40 percent of patients with chronic Lyme disease are currently unable to work and 24 percent have received disability at some point during their illness.

To help prevent exposure and manage ticks this summer, RISE created the following checklist:

1. Avoid wooded and busy areas with high grass and leaf litter.

2. Apply repellent before participating in outdoor activities.

3. Bathe or shower right after spending time outdoors and conduct a full-body tick check using a mirror to see hard to reach places such as the under arms, belly button, behind the knees and on the scalp.

4. Place a barrier of wood chips or gravel between your lawn, patio, and play equipment and any wooded areas. This will restrict tick migration into recreational areas.

5. Check pets for ticks daily and remove them as soon as possible if one is present. Pets can carry ticks inside homes as they hide in their fur.

6. Protect pets by reaching out to your local veterinarian. They usually offer a variety of products for protecting animals from tick-borne diseases.

7. Consult a licensed and trained green industry professional to spray the yard’s perimeter to reduce tick populations.

“Additional ways to protect loved ones from tick exposure on your property may include pruning trees, clearing brush, removing litter and mowing grass short and letting it dry thoroughly between waterings,” added Mervine.

Due to warmer weather and school vacations, May also brings increased outdoor activity and more exposure to harmful pests. Become a “Backyard Boss” by incorporating an integrated pest management approach to manage common, harmful pests through maintenance, monitoring of pest populations, sanitation and pesticides. IPM empowers homeowners and lawn care enthusiasts to reduce the likelihood of unwanted pests, weeds and disease — like Lyme disease — and keep their family and pets healthy and safe.

Learn more about how to prevent pests inside and outside the home by visiting DebugTheMyths.com.

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