Maine CDC Press Release

May 5, 2010

May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) is proud to support the official declaration of May as Lyme Disease Awareness Month, said Dr. Dora Anne Mills, Director of the Maine CDC.

Stephen Sears, MD, MPH
(207) 287-5183
Dora Anne. Mills, MD, MPH
(207) 287-3270

Note: This release contains statistical charts at the bottom on Lyme Disease in Maine.

AUGUSTA - The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) is proud to support the official declaration of May as Lyme Disease Awareness Month, said Dr. Dora Anne Mills, Director of the Maine CDC. “Lyme disease is the second most commonly reported reportable infectious disease in Maine, with nearly 1,000 people reported with it each year the past two years,’’ said Mills. “It has become more widespread across the state. It is therefore important that all people and health care providers become familiar with it.”

Lyme disease gets its name from the small coastal town of Lyme, Connecticut. In 1975, a woman brought to the attention of Yale researchers an unusual cluster of more than 50 people, mostly children, with arthritis. Over the next several years research showed that other symptoms often appeared, such as fatigue and neurological problems. The bacteria causing these symptoms were identified, and the disease was named Lyme.

Carried by the deer tick, Lyme disease has been commonly identified in Maine since the early 1990s and has been increasing each year said Dr. Stephen Sears, Maine’s State Epidemiologist. “Lyme disease has now been identified in all 16 counties and is most common among school-age children and middle-age adults. It is also most commonly reported from southern coastal areas of Maine.”

As the weather continues to get warmer, more ticks will be out in the open, and most infections in Maine occur during the summer months.

“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, join and muscle pains and other flu-like symptoms may also occur,” said Dr. Sears. “Lyme disease is treatable, and the vast majority of patients reported to Maine CDC fully recover after receiving a course of antibiotics.”

“It is very important everyone realize that Lyme disease is preventable,” said Dr. Sears. Maine CDC recommends following the No Ticks 4 ME approach:

  1. Wear protective clothing
    • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and tuck your socks into your pants. Light clothing is best, because ticks are more visible on lighter colors.
  2. Use insect repellent
    • Any EPA approved repellent can be effective, these include: DEET, Picaridin, Permethrin, IR3535 and Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus. The length of time these are effective vary for each repellent, so make sure to read the labels and use appropriately.
  3. Perform daily tick checks
    • Ticks must be attached for 24-48 hours before the bacteria can be transmitted, so prompt removal of ticks is extremely important. Ticks may be very small and difficult to see. Take special care to check in these area:
    • Under the arms
    • In and around the ears
    • Inside belly button
    • Back of the knees
    • In and around all head and body hair
    • Between the legs
    • Around the waist
    • Checking for ticks on your clothing and pets is also important. Placing clothes into a dryer on high heat can effectively kill ticks.
  4. Use caution in tick habitats
    • Take precautions when you are going to be in common tick habitats including woods and fields. This does not mean you need to avoid going to these places, just be aware of the risks and use common sense.

“A good option to use at home is to modify your landscaping to create Tick Safe Zones”, said Dr. Sears. “Regularly remove brush, leaf litter and tall grass. Create a dry border (using woodchips or gravel) between the woods and the lawn to help keep ticks from crossing into your yard. Discourage deer by removing plants that attract them and constructing physical barriers that may discourage deer from entering your yard.”

Pets are another source of exposure to ticks. Consult with a veterinarian regarding tick medicines or tick collars. Regular tick checks for your pets are important as well.

Anyone with a known tick bite, or who has been in a tick habitat should watch for symptoms for at least 30 days after the exposure, said Dr. Sears. If symptoms develop, call a doctor immediately, as Lyme disease is easier to treat in earlier states.

Other activities to promote Lyme Disease Awareness Month include: a statewide poster contest for kids in K-8th grade, Lyme disease presentations throughout the state, and an information table at the Key Bank Building Lobby on May 4th. Maine CDC’s has also mailed a “Tick-borne Diseases in Maine: A Physician Reference Manual” to providers throughout the state.

The Maine CDC is also issuing a health advisory on Lyme disease to all health care providers today.

Additional information:

Lyme Disease Chart 1

Lyme Disease Chart 2