Health Services

Ticks

Ticks and Tick-Borne Diseases in Suffolk County


Ticks and the Diseases They Cause

Personal Protection against Tick-Borne Diseases

Research, Management, Education & Resources in Suffolk County

Reported Cases of Tick-Borne Disease in Suffolk County


 

Ticks and the Diseases They Cause

Ticks can transmit disease, including Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, babesiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Powassan virus. In recent years, researchers have found that ticks may cause an allergy to meat, as well. Did you know that different kinds of ticks can transmit different diseases?


Blacklegged Ticks (also known as Deer Ticks) (Ixodes scapularis)

typically transmit Lyme disease, babesiosis, anaplasmosis and Powassan virus.


Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia borgdorferi. A characteristic sign of Lyme disease is a red circular rash (bull’s-eye rash) that may appear a few days to a month, at the site of the bite, after being bitten by an infected tick. Multiple rashes may develop. About 60-80% of people who get Lyme disease develop a bull’s-eye rash. Flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headache, fatigue, stiff neck and muscle/joint pain, are also common in early Lyme disease. If left untreated, Lyme disease can cause complications such as recurring swollen and painful joints, temporary facial paralysis or heart problems.

Lyme Disease Information from New York State Department of Health

Lyme Disease Information from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)


Babesiosis is a rare and sometimes deadly disease caused by the protozoan Babesia microti. The disease can cause fever, fatigue and anemia (low red blood cell levels) lasting from days to months. It may take from 1-8 weeks for symptoms to appear.

CDC Babesiosis Information


Anaplasmosis is caused by the bacterium Anaplasma phagocytophilia and may cause flu-like symptoms 1-3 weeks after the bite of an infected tick. Infection usually produces mild to moderately severe illness, with high fever and headache, but may occasionally be life-threatening or even fatal.

CDC Anaplasmosis Information


Powassan Virus is named after Powassan, Ontario, where it was first discovered in 1958. Signs and symptoms of infection can include fever, headache, vomiting, weakness,confusion, seizures, and memory loss. Long-term neurologic problems may occur.

CDC Powassan Virus Information


Lone Star Ticks (Amblyomma americanum)

typically transmit ehrlichiosis, tularemia and Southern Tick Associated Rash Illness (STARI).


Ehrlichiosis is caused by the bacterium Ehrlichia chaffeensis and is similar in many ways to anaplasmosis.

CDC Ehrlichiosis Information


Tularemia is caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis. Within 2 weeks, symptoms appear which include swollen lymph glands and a skin ulcer at the site of the bite of an infected tick.

CDC Tularemia Information 


Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness (STARI) is thought to be caused by the bacterium Borrelia lonestari and is similar to Lyme disease. Individuals infected with STARI may develop flu-like symptoms and a bull’s-eye rash. However, STARI itself does not appear to be serious or potentially fatal.

CDC STARI Information


Alpha-gal Allergy Researchers who are studying patients with allergic reactions to meat, were able to demonstrate that patients with allergic reactions to meat had high levels of antibodies and proteins derived from the Lone Star Tick. The Tick-Borne Disease Resource Center at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital have developed these informational pamphlets regarding A-gal.

Alpha-gal allergy: Meat Allergy Caused by Lone Star Tick

Alergia Alpha-Gal: Alergia A La Carne Causada Por La Garrapata Estrella Solitaria


 American Dog Ticks (Dermacentor variabilis)

typically transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia.


Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) is caused by the bacterium Rickettsia rickettsii. RMSF is characterized by a sudden onset of moderate to high fever (which can last for 2-3 weeks), severe headache, fatigue, deep muscle pain, chills and rash, which begins on the legs/feet or arms/hands, and may spread rapidly to the rest of the body.  Symptoms usually appear within 2 weeks of the bite of an infected tick.

CDC Rocky Mountain spotted fever Information


Tularemia is caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis. Within 2 weeks, symptoms appear which include swollen lymph glands and a skin ulcer at the site of the bite of an infected tick.

CDC Tularemia Information

 


Diagnosis and Treatment

Be sure to seek medical attention if you become ill after a tick bite. Generally, an evaluation of symptoms and blood tests will be used in making a diagnosis. Most tick-borne disease patients respond well to appropriate antibiotic therapy. Prompt diagnosis and treatment improves outcome. Your physician will choose the medicine that is best for you.

 

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Personal Protection against Tick-Borne Diseases

Ticks will remain active year-round (above 40°F/4.4°C). Preventive measures should be used whenever tick-exposure is likely. Here are some steps to follow:

  • Wear light-colored clothing
  • Wear long pants and sleeves
  • Tuck your pants into your socks
  • Tuck your shirt into your pants
  • Use repellents as directed
  • Walk along the center of trails
  • Conduct frequent clothing checks
  • Once home, dry clothing on the highest temperature setting for 10 minutes to kill any ticks
  • Carefully inspect your body for ticks
  • Keep pets from tick infested areas and check them before entering the house.

Repellents

Repellents may be used to repel ticks and prevent tick attachment. Always read and follow all label directions carefully.

  • Repellents containing DEET may be applied to the skin and clothing. Lower concentrations of DEET are preferable, especially for children.
  • Repellents containing permethrin may be applied to clothing only.

Tick Removal

Studies have shown that the tick must stay on the body for 36 hours to transmit Lyme disease. Prompt and proper tick removal is essential and may decrease your chances of getting tick-borne diseases. The steps are:

  • Use fine-point tweezers or tick-removal tools.
  • Grasp the tick where its mouthparts enter the skin and pull the tick straight out.
  • Do not twist or squeeze the tick’s body. Be patient – proper tick removal takes time.
  • Do not use petroleum jelly, gasoline, lit matches, oils, or any other remedies to remove ticks. These methods may actually increase your chances of contracting a disease.
  • After removing the tick, disinfect the bite area and wash your hands.
  • Monitor the bite area for early signs and symptoms of Lyme disease
  • Call your physician if you get any symptoms.
  • Ticks do not burrow under the skin, and any remaining mouthparts after tick removal will not transmit disease. However, additional aggravation of the bite site may cause secondary bacterial skin infections.

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    Research, Management & Resources in Suffolk County

    In 2011, Suffolk County established a Tick and Vector-Borne Diseases Task Force, which issued its final report in December 2015. The major recommendations of the Tick and Vector-Borne Diseases Task Force Final Report were: 1) survey Suffolk County tick populations in order to evaluate tick density and population ranges and 2) create a countywide tick-borne pathogen surveillance program to better understand pathogens present in tick populations and the related public health risk to county residents. In 2016, Suffolk County established the Tick Control Advisory Committee. The committee has guided Suffolk County tick surveillance and control efforts by Department of Health’s Arthropod-Borne Disease Laboratory (ABDL) and Department of Public Works’ Division of Vector Control. Information on tick research and control efforts can be found on pages 14 – 17 in Suffolk County’s Division of Vector Control’s Annual Plan of Work. The following activities are underway:

    Surveillance

    • The Department of Health Services and the Department of Public Works are conducting tick surveillance in all 10 towns during the height of the tick season in order to study pathogens present in tick populations and the related public health risk to county residents.
    • The Department of Public Work (DPW) is conducting surveillance at four locations all year round to evaluate tick density and population ranges.

    Tick Management for Municipalities and Commericial Pesticide Applicators

    Suffolk County’s Division of Vector Control is conducting field trials using selected pesticides used by commercial applicators to test efficacy against ticks. Trials have been completed for some the products. Municipalities, commercial pesticide applicators and other entities that are conducting tick control, may contact Suffolk County DPW Division of Vector Control for advice on best practices in Integrated Pest Management. Contact: 631-852-4402.

    Tick Management Suggestions for Homeowners

    Ticks do not jump, fly, or fall from trees. They crawl close to the ground on leaves, brush and tall grass. Homeowners should consider:

    • Keep lawn mowed and bushes trimmed;
    • Remove lawn debris and leaf litter;
    • Discourage rodents by reducing nesting sites (e.g. wood piles or holes in stone walls) or food sources (e.g. bird seed);
    • Move lawn furniture and children’s toys away from wooded areas or wooded edges of your yard where ticks are more likely to be found.

    Additional information regarding tick management: Tick Management Handbook by Kirby C. Stafford III, PhD (PDF file)

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    Education & Outreach Regarding Ticks and Tick-Borne Diseases

    Suffolk County has developed an informative brochure that we encourage you to print and share with your community.

    Ticks and Tick-Borne Diseases of Suffolk County, NY

    Garrapatas y enfermedades transmitidas por garrapatas del Condado de Suffolk, NY


    Suffolk County Partnerships

    Suffolk County closely collaborates with its partners to provide information and education regarding ticks and tick-borne diseases.

    Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County (CCE) offers classes about ticks and tick-borne diseases, tick identification services, and phone consultations. CCE also serves as liaison to the newly established Northeast Regional Center for Excellence in Vector Borne Diseases at Cornell to assure that our citizen’s interests are represented and considered in the regional center’s work as it develops.

    The Regional Tick-Borne Disease Resource Center at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital educates the public, promotes collaboration in the medical community, and facilitates access to diagnosis and treatment of tick-borne diseases.

    Questions about Ticks and Tick-Borne Diseases in Suffolk County If you have questions about ticks or tick-borne diseases, send them to: Tick.Prevention@suffolkcountyny.gov .


    Additional Information

    Video Tips to Avoid Tick Bites

    Tick Encounter Resource Center – Information from the University of Rhode Island

    How to Establish a Tick-borne Disease Prevention Program – Information from the Connecticut Department of Public Health (pdf)

    CDC TickNet - Information from the Centers for Disease Control

    Tick-borne Diseases – Information from Massachusetts State Department of Health and Human Services

    CDC Tick Manual - Information from the Centers for DiseaseControl (pdf)

    CDC Division of Vector-Borne Disease - Information from the Centers for Disease Control

    Lyme Disease and Other Diseases Carried by Ticks - Information from New York State Department of Health

    Tick Management Handbook by Kirby C. Stafford III, PhD (pdf File)

    Recognizing and Avoiding Tick-borne Illness– Information from Harvard Medical School

    Lyme and Tick-borne Disease Research Center – Information from Columbia University Medical Center

    Wisconsin Ticks and Tick-borne Disease – Information from the University of Wisconsin-Madison

    Life Cycle and Identification of Ticks – Information from the Centers for Disease Control


    Reported Cases of Tick-Borne Disease in Suffolk County

    New York State Reportable Disease Case Count Suffolk County

    2014

    2015

    2016

    Babesiosis

    204

    215

    156

    Ehrlichiosis (Anaplasmosis & Chafeensis)

    119

    101

    123

    Lyme (extrapolated)

    654

    669

    644

    Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF)

    8

    8

    13

    Powassan Virus

    0

    0

    0

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