AUGUSTA – The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) urges Maine residents and visitors to take precautions to stay “tick free” during Lyme Disease Awareness Month (PDF) this May.
This year’s Lyme Disease Awareness Month theme is “Tick Free ME.” Preventing tick bites is the best way to avoid getting a tickborne disease. In Maine, deer ticks can carry germs that can cause diseases in both people and animals, the most common being Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, and babesiosis. Other tickborne diseases found in Maine include Hard Tick Relapsing Fever (Borrelia miyamotoi disease) and Powassan virus disease.
Preliminary reporting shows that health care providers reported 2,636 Lyme disease cases to Maine CDC in 2022 (data as of May 2023). In addition to Lyme disease, providers reported four cases of Powassan virus disease in 2022. Those were the highest numbers reported for both Lyme disease and Powassan virus in a single year in Maine for the last decade. Preliminary data for 2023 indicates 374 cases of Lyme disease have been reported, year-to-date, in Maine.
Ticks live in wooded, leafy, and shrubby areas and deer ticks have been found in all 16 counties of Maine. They are currently active, so anyone spending time outdoors should take steps to limit their exposure to ticks. Following these Tick Free ME tips after every outdoor activity can help you stay tick free:
- Know tick habitat and take precautions in areas where ticks may live.
- Wear light-colored clothing that covers the arms and legs; tuck pants into socks.
- Use an EPA-approved repellent like DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus on skin; use permethrin on clothing.
- Check for ticks daily and after any outdoor activity. Check family members and pets too.
- Remove your clothing when you get home and put it in the dryer before washing. Use high heat for 10-15 minutes to kill any crawling ticks that have not attached to you.
The most common symptom of Lyme disease is a “bull’s-eye” rash which can appear anywhere on the body. Other symptoms of tickborne disease include symptoms similar to the flu or COVID-19 such as joint and muscle pain, fatigue, chills, fever, headache, and swollen lymph nodes. If you experience any of these symptoms, talk to a health care provider and be sure to mention a recent tick bite or time spent in tick habitat.
The University of Maine Cooperative Extension Tick Lab offers tick identification for free and testing to Maine residents for a fee of $20. Testing can take up to three days and should be used for surveillance purposes only and not for diagnosis, as finding a tick on you, even if it was attached, does not necessarily mean that any germs have been transmitted. Find more information at ticks.umaine.edu.
To learn more about how to be Tick Free ME and find educational resources, visit http://www.maine.gov/lyme.