Earlier this month, Governor Chris Sununu proclaimed May as Lyme Disease Awareness Month in New Hampshire. Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne illness, approximately 476,000 people may get Lyme disease each year in the United States. The Governor’s proclamation encouraged residents and visitors to practice Lyme disease prevention strategies.
“We all know someone who has been affected by Lyme Disease,” said Governor Chris Sununu. “As the weather warms and we spend more time outdoors, it is important we all take time to educate ourselves on Lyme Disease, and take simple steps to prevent tick bites.”
According to a survey commissioned by Tick Free NH, last fall four in ten New Hampshire residents thought they faced a high or moderate risk of contracting Lyme disease, down slightly since 2020 when just under half (46%) felt they were at risk. Understanding risk of infection equates to proper tick protection practice. But good news! 22% of New Hampshire residents say that the last time they found a tick on their body, they removed it by pulling the tick straight out with tweezers – correct and safe removal methods are important for not passing the bacteria into a body.
Tickborne illnesses are on the rise in New Hampshire. There are five different tickborne illnesses in New Hampshire: Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, Powassan virus and Borrelia miyamotoi. All of these illnesses are transmitted by the blacklegged tick, formerly called the deer tick. The NH Bureau of Infectious Disease Control monitors cases of tickborne illness in the State and develops educational programs focusing on how to prevent tickborne illnesses.
“The risk of tick bites begins to increase as soon as the snow melts,” said Dr. Benjamin Chan, State Epidemiologist. “It is important that people take steps now to prevent tick bites and tick-transmitted diseases by using an effective tick-repellant, wearing long sleeves and pants when outside, and checking their bodies and their pets for ticks every time they are outdoors, especially if going into the woods or areas where there is long grass and brush.”
The continued increasing number of cases indicates the need for greater awareness and prevention efforts across the State. Rodents and deer are important hosts for ticks to survive in our environment. As we finally enter spring, when tickborne illnesses start to increase, it is very important to consider ways to make your home and yard less attractive to these animals.
“When I talk with people in New Hampshire that have had Lyme disease or know people who have had it, they often speak about having to significantly slow down or miss work while sick,” shares Frank Grossman, instigator behind the Tick Free NH initiative. “Tick Free NH is a public-private partnership with diverse stakeholders who are dedicated to raising awareness so that residents can protect themselves while enjoying our state.”
Awareness is key, more than half (58%) of New Hampshire residents say that over the past year they have always checked themselves for ticks when in wooded, grassy, or brushy areas.
Lyme disease is a serious illness that can affect people of any age. The best ways to protect yourself from a tick bite are:
- Wear light-colored protective clothing and tuck your shirt into your pants and your pants into your socks. Ticks only climb up when feeding and keeping them outside your clothes and choosing light colors allows you to notice and brush off ticks before they get to your skin.
- Treat your shoes and clothing with Permethrin – a chemical that repels and kills ticks, which is good for many washes.
- Apply tick repellent every time you go into a wooded, grassy, or brushy area – this includes gardening or playing in your lawn. Repellents with 20-30% DEET are effective, but there are other EPA repellants effective against ticks as well.
- Put your clothes in the dryer on high for 10 minutes (or one hour for damp clothes) to kill ticks.
- Shower after being outside to wash off any unattached ticks.
- Conduct a daily tick check for yourself, child and pets.
To learn about Tick Free NH, ordering low- or no-cost materials for your home, classroom, camp or health care practice, becoming a member, donating, or sponsoring a NH classroom with educational materials, visit TickFreeNH.org, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.