Across the nation, public health experts have warned of a foreboding uptick—an uptick, that is, in ticks.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is saying this could be the worst tick season ever. Warmer winters over the last few years have contributed to a booming increase in the mouse population, and a corresponding sharp spike in the tick population. With summer on the horizon, Wiltonites of all ages are flocking once again to nature in search of fun and relaxation–but the treasured Wilton resources of woods and open spaces are also prime real-estate for ticks. A nuisance in their own right, the real threat ticks pose is in the diseases they can carry, diseases like Lyme which are sure to put a damper on summer fun.
Dr. Mark Wasserman, medical director at AFC Urgent Care in Norwalk, has seen first-hand a materialization of the national trend of increased tick populations, with an above-average number of patients coming in for bites. He reports that several people every day are visiting the clinic for tick bites this season, a development which has only ramped up in recent weeks.
Wasserman is quick to note that the rise in tick bites, while certainly a trend worth keeping an eye on, does not seem to be translating directly to a huge surge in patients testing positive for Lyme disease.
“Less than one in ten tests come back positive,” he says. Finding an embedded tick is far from a sentence to weeks in bed battling Lyme, and taking some informed measures has proven to cut the risk of transmission.
Wasserman’s three keys to escaping this tick season Lyme-free are preventative measures, constant surveillance, and quick action.
“The best advice is to use an insect repellant so you don’t get the ticks, and it’s also a good idea if you’ve been out in the woods or gardening, to check yourself when you come in, to take a shower and really look, because most people don’t know when they have ticks on them.”
If you do see a tick on yourself or a loved one, use a pair of fine-tipped tweezers and remove it with a steady upwards motion, then clean the affected area with soap and warm water. The longer a tick is attached, the higher the risk of Lyme, so tick-checks should be performed daily during the high-risk summer season.
“A tick really needs to be embedded for 36 hours or more to put you at significant risk for Lyme disease,” Wasserman says. This drives his central piece of advice: “Don’t get a tick on you, but if you do, get it off quickly.”
If you find a tick that you think may have been attached for longer than 36 hours and it appears engorged—full of blood, globular in shape and larger than a normal tick–then it is a good idea to speak to a doctor about getting tested for Lyme. Additionally, Wilton residents can bring engorged ticks to the Health Department (located in the Town Hall Annex) for free identification and testing, to find out for sure if the tick carries the bacteria that causes Lyme.
Despite the bad news; it isn’t a reason to avoid the stunning natural beauty that permeates our town. When it comes to ticks, some basic knowledge of prevention and after-bite care can help ensure a healthy summer for yourself and your family.