June 7, 2005
Prevent Lyme Disease and West Nile Virus: Cover Up, Clean Up, and Check Daily
The Maine Department of Health and Human Services is reminding Mainers that summer is the season for simple precautions to reduce the chance of contracting Lyme Disease or West Nile Virus.
“ ‘Clean Up, Cover Up, and Check Daily’ is our mantra this year,” said Dr. Dora Anne Mills, director of HHS’ Bureau of Health.
· Clean Up unnecessary standing water, rain gutters, leaf litter, brush, and woodpiles in order to reduce tick and mosquito habitats around the yard.
In the past several years, an average of 100 to 200 people in Maine contracted Lyme Disease, Dr. Mills said. “This is a bacterial infection carried by deer ticks and the effective prevention measures include reducing the chance of getting tick bites and checking skin for tick bites because transmission of Lyme Disease is unlikely if ticks are removed within 24 hours of a bite.”
The most common early symptom of Lyme Disease is an expanding red rash that occurs at the site of the tick bite within 3-30 days after being bitten. Fever, joint and muscle pains may also occur. Persons with these symptoms should call their doctor.
West Nile Virus has been detected since 2001 in birds across Maine and in a few tested mosquitoes. There are no reports of people contracting the infection in Maine.
“Because West Nile Virus is carried 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 human infections in Maine,” explained Dr. Mills.
The simplest prevention measures against West Nile Virus are avoiding mosquito bites, especially during their most active times of dusk and dawn; and reducing mosquito populations in and around one’s home, Dr. Mills said. Avoiding the peak mosquito biting time of dusk to dawn and repairing window screens are additional strategies that reduce the risk of infection.
Symptoms of West Nile Virus include flu-like symptoms, such as fever and vomiting, headaches, and occasionally neurological symptoms, such as stroke-like symptoms or coma. People with these symptoms should call their doctor.
Beginning June 20, the Bureau of Health also is once again asking that the public call 1-888-697-5846 when they see dead crows, blue jays, or ravens.
“These are the birds that are most affected by West Nile Virus, and these reports help us track the spread of this virus among birds in Maine,” said Dr. Mills.
There is additional information on both West Nile Virus and Lyme Disease at Maine’s public health web site: www.MainePublicHealth.Gov.
Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services works to enhance the health, safety and independence of all Maine people. Its MaineCare program provides health insurance to more than 260,000 people. Other program initiatives protect public health, advance social and economic independence, and support preventative, protective, and public health services for children, families, Maine’s seniors, and adults, including those with cognitive and physical disabilities.