Maine CDC Press Release

June 1, 2009

Practice the 'Three Cs' to Reduce Likelihood of Lyme Disease, EEE, and West Nile Virus

AUGUSTA - The Department of Health and Human Services’ Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) reminds Mainers that while it is important for our overall health to enjoy the outdoors, it is also important to take some simple precautions that will reduce one’s chances of tick and mosquito bites in order to prevent Lyme Disease, Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), and West Nile Virus.

"Lyme Disease, a bacterial infection, that is transmitted through tick bites, is on the rise in Maine, and two-thirds of infections are contracted in June through September. EEE is a virus that is transmitted by mosquito bites, and there is evidence of its increasing presence, especially in southern Maine. West Nile Virus is also a mosquito-borne infection that has been detected in Maine among some mosquitoes and birds. Since mosquito and tick season has arrive, now is the time to take precautions," said Dora Anne Mills, MD, MPH, Director of the Maine CDC.

"'Clean Up, Cover Up, and Check Daily' is our mantra," explained Dr. Mills.

  • Clean Up unnecessary standing water, rain gutters, leaf litter, brush, and logs in order to reduce tick and mosquito habitats around the yard;
  • Cover Up with a long-sleeve shirt and pants, and/or appropriately use a DEET-containing insect repellent or other EPA-registered repellent to reduce the chances of being bitten by ticks and mosquitoes;
  • Check Daily your skin and you children’s skin for ticks after being outside.

"Over the past several years, we have seen a large increase in the number of Mainers who have reported Lyme Disease – from less than 200 per year 15 years ago to almost 900 in 2008, including a 100% increase since 2006," explained Dr. Mills. "Although reports have been received from every county in Maine, the southern, mid-coast, Androscoggin and Kennebec Counties account for over 90% of the reports. Lyme Disease is most commonly seen among school-aged children and middle age adults."

"The most important point is that Lyme Disease is preventable. Since it is carried by deer ticks, effective prevention measures include reducing the chances of getting bitten and checking skin for ticks, since the infection will not be transmitted if ticks are removed within 24 to 36 hours," further explained Dr. Mills.

The most common early symptom of Lyme Disease is an expanding red rash that occurs at the site of the tick bite within 3-32 days after being bitten. Fever, joint and muscle pains may also occur. Persons with these symptoms should call their doctor. Although a few report ongoing symptoms, the vast majority fully recover after receiving appropriate treatment, such as antibiotics.

EEE was first detected in Maine in 2005 among horses, mosquitoes, and birds in York County. In the fall of 2008 a man spending time in Cumberland County died of EEE. Subsequently, a mosquito pool and a horse in York County were also found to test positive. Therefore, areas of southern Maine are considered to be at risk for contracting EEE virus from mosquitoes.

West Nile Virus has been detected since 2001 in birds across Maine and in several samples of mosquitoes. Since this virus is carried to a geographical area by birds, and is transmitted to humans through infected mosquitoes that have bitten infected birds, the risk of human infection appears to be present even though there are no reports of people contracting the infection yet in Maine.

Symptoms of West Nile Virus and EEE include fever, vomiting, headaches, and occasionally neurological signs such as stroke-like symptoms or coma. Symptoms typically appear several days after the bite of an infected mosquito. People exhibiting these symptoms should call their doctor. Although the vast majority of people with West Nile Virus have mild illness, the case fatality rate for EEE is 35 – 50%.

The simplest prevention measures against EEE and West Nile Virus involve avoiding mosquito bites, especially during their most active times of dusk and dawn; and reducing mosquito populations in and around one’s home, including repairing window screens.

"It is important that we all enjoy the outdoors as much as possible this summer. Adding the three simple steps of cleaning up our yards, covering up with clothes or appropriately with an insect repellent, and checking for ticks, we can also enjoy a summer with reduced chances of contracting these three infections," concluded Dr. Mills.

For More Information:

Dora Anne Mills, MD, MPH (207) - 287-3270

Maine CDC website on EEE and West Nile Virus

Maine CDC website on Lyme Disease

US CDC website on appropriate use of insect repellents