AUGUSTA – The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention urges residents and visitors to focus on tick prevention during May, Lyme Disease Awareness Month.
This year’s awareness month theme is “Stop. Check. Prevent.” The campaign asks people to stop frequently to check for ticks, since personal prevention measures are the best way to keep from getting a tickborne disease. Deer ticks in Maine can carry the germs that cause diseases including Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, and Borrelia miyamotoi disease. These ticks are most commonly found in wooded, leafy, and shrubby areas, putting most Mainers at risk every day. Anyone spending time outdoors should take steps to limit their exposure to ticks.
Ticks are already active in Maine. The following strategies help prevent exposure to ticks and the diseases they carry:
• Use caution in areas where ticks may be found.
• Use an EPA-approved repellent like DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus.
• Wear light-colored clothing that covers the arms and legs, and tuck pants into socks.
• Perform tick checks daily and after any outdoor activity.
Health care providers reported at least 1,118 confirmed and probable Lyme disease cases to Maine CDC in 2020 (as of March 17). While this is lower than the record number of cases reported in 2019, tickborne diseases remain a serious threat in Maine.
The most common symptom of Lyme disease is an erythema migrans or “bullseye” rash. Other common symptoms include arthritis, fatigue, chills, fever, headache, and swollen lymph nodes. Some of these symptoms resemble COVID-19 symptoms. Those who experience any of these symptoms should mention a recent tick bite or time spent in tick habitat to a health care provider.
Maine CDC provides many resources to prevent tickborne diseases, including:
• Short educational videos on tick identification, tick checks, tickborne diseases, repellents, and choosing a residential pesticide applicator are available at youtube.com/mainepublichealth.
• A youth tick curriculum for third through eighth grade students to teach kids about tick bite prevention is available at maine.gov/dhhs/schoolcurricula.
• Answers to frequently asked questions about ticks and tickborne diseases are available at maine.gov/dhhs/tickfaq.
• Tickborne disease data from the Maine Tracking Network for Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, and babesiosis are available in the Data Portal at data.mainepublichealth.gov/tracking.
For more information on Lyme Disease Awareness Month activities and tickborne diseases, visit maine.gov/lyme. Follow Maine CDC on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, for updates throughout the month.
The University of Maine Cooperative Extension Tick Lab offers tick identification and testing to Maine residents. Tick testing is available for $15 with a three-day turnaround time for surveillance purposes only. Contact a health care provider for concerns about tickborne illnesses. Find more information at ticks.umaine.edu.