Check for Ticks to Prevent Lyme Disease


Date: May 20, 2005

Contact: Communication Office

BURLINGTON – If you think you can’t get Lyme disease in Vermont, think again. The black-legged tick, also known as the deer tick, is found throughout Vermont. When infected with Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease, the black-legged tick can pass it to animals or people. These ticks are active as soon as the outdoor temperature reaches 40 degrees F or above.

“It is possible to get Lyme disease in Vermont, and not just in the southern part of the state,” said Dr. Patsy Tassler, epidemiologist with the Vermont Department of Health. “Black-legged ticks infected with Lyme disease have been found as far north as Grand Isle County.”

Lyme disease is an infection that can affect the skin, heart, nerves, or joints. Early symptoms may include fatigue, chills and fever, muscle and joint pain, headache, swollen lymph nodes and a rash surrounding the bite area. Lyme disease can be cured with antibiotic therapy.

Ticks are active from April through November, but the peak season for contracting Lyme disease in Vermont is from May through July. During spring and summer more people are active outdoors, and at the same time many black-legged ticks are in a growth stage called a nymph, which is tiny and hard to see.

“Black-legged ticks in the nymph stage may look like a freckle or a speck of dirt, so it’s important to look closely for ticks after you go outdoors,” Dr. Tassler added. “If you find a tick on you or your pet, no matter what the size, don’t panic. Not all ticks are infected, and in order to pass along Lyme disease, the infected tick must be attached for at least 24 to 36 hours. That’s why daily tick checks are so important.”

Prevention is the best method to avoid tick bites and the potential for Lyme disease infection. Black-legged ticks live in wooded, brushy and grassy places including lawns and gardens. If you will be walking through areas like this, wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts to minimize skin exposure to ticks.

Other tips for tick bite prevention include:

If you find a tick attached to your skin, use a pair of pointed tweezers and grasp the tick by the head or mouthparts right where they enter the skin. Do not grasp the tick by the body. Without jerking, pull firmly and steadily outward. Call your physician if you experience any symptoms of Lyme disease after a tick bite.

Dogs have also gotten Lyme disease in Vermont from tick bites. Tick control products are available in stores, or call your veterinarian for more advice on how to control ticks on pets.

For more information about ticks and Lyme disease in Vermont, call the Vermont Department of Health at 800-640-4374 (in Vermont ) or 802 -863-7240, or check the website at