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Health District Touting BLAST For Tick-Borne Disease Prevention



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May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month, but as many residents of Newtown know, the prevention of tick bites and the potential diseases they carry including Lyme is a year-round concern for the Newtown Health District, Director Donna Culbert, and her staff.

Everyone is relieved that warm and sunny weather has arrived, and that includes Culbert. But she knows that means tick season is upon us with a vengeance.

Connecticut is home to many different species of ticks that are known to carry diseases that are transmissible to humans. The black legged tick or deer tick can transmit Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis, and Lyme, and the lone star tick, rare yet present in the state, transmits Ehrlichiosis.

Currently, there are no vaccines to prevent these diseases.

To date this year, Newtown’s district staff including Administrative Assistant Maureen Schaedler have accepted 51 ticks for testing that have bitten and been removed from residents. Among them, 45 have been returned with 15 identified as carrying Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis, or Babesiosis. Schaedler said at least one was returned with all three, and another three were identified with co-infections of two of the diseases.

“The Health District, along with our community partners, want to share the word about the risk of tick bites, and tick-borne disease,” Culbert told The Newtown Bee. “Remember, we live, work and play in tick country. So it’s important to be aware and take action to protect yourself and your loved ones — that includes pets.”

As anyone who has come inside with a few on them after a walk around their yard, or a hike through one of Newtown’s trails and open spaces knows, ticks are everywhere.

“And they have a remarkable ability to harbor multiple pathogens which can cause infection,” Culbert said. “One tick can transmit more than one disease — such an event is called co-infection.”

All the more reason to take precautions to prevent tick bites.

“We are reminded that the nymph phase can be the most problematic resulting in Lyme and other tick-borne diseases, as the nymph is not easy to detect or remove,” Culbert said.

Getting It Removed

According to the Connecticut Dept of Public Health, quickly finding and removing ticks from the body is an important step in preventing infection with tick-borne diseases.

Tweezers are the best method to remove ticks.

Contrary to popular belief, smothering ticks with petroleum jelly is not effective. Never use a hot match, gasoline or any other chemical to remove a tick.

The best way to remove a tick:

*Grasp it close to the mouth parts near the skin surface.

*With gentle, steady pressure, pull the tick upward away from the skin until it releases.

*Once the tick is removed, wash the area of the bite with an antiseptic or rubbing alcohol.

Symptoms of tick-borne diseases found in Connecticut may all include a fever and general muscle aches that can occur within 35 days from the time of the bite, DPH says. If you get any symptoms of Lyme disease, or symptoms of other tick-borne diseases, contact your doctor right away.

Residents need to remain vigilant and think of tick bites as having the potential of greater consequences than just taking a course of antibiotics and not to be casual about prevention.

Both the state and the local health district offer a wealth of resources to residents.

Connecticut’s Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES) is the nation’s first state agricultural experiment station and was founded in 1875 to promote agriculture using scientific investigation and experiment. They enjoy many key accomplishments that include making the first isolations of Lyme disease agents from Connecticut wildlife in 1983, and developing antibody tests for laboratory diagnosis of Lyme disease a year later.

Dr Kirby Stafford is a medical-veterinary entomologist whose research focuses on the ecology and control of the blacklegged tick. He joined the CAES in 1987, and is currently vice director, chief entomologist and state entomologist of the CAES.

His publication, entitled Tick Management Handbook, is an integrated guide for homeowners, pest control operators, and public health officials for tick management and the prevention of tick-associated disease. Download it or review it by CLICKING HERE.

The BLAST Message

The Newtown Health District also wants residents to learn about ticks and tick bite prevention, so for well over a decade it has been promoting an initiative called BLAST.

“BLAST stands for five important things you and your family can do to stay safe from tick-borne diseases,” Culbert said, noting each letter represents a practice that when followed completely could provide the best chance for dodging a tick bite and any of the potential diseases it may carry.

B — stands for bathing or showering soon after being outdoors.

L — reminds everyone to look for and remove ticks from your skin and your pets.

A — encourages you to apply repellent to skin and clothes and avoid tick infested areas.

S — is for safeguarding your yard against ticks; spray or manage tall grass and leaf piles

T — reminds everyone to treat pets with veterinarian recommended products.

“Ticks and tick-borne disease aren’t going away, so it’s up to the individual to take action,” Culbert said.

For additional information on ticks and tick-borne disease prevention, contact the Newtown Health District.

Phone 203-270-4291.

The staff of the Newtown Health District, from left, Suzette LeBlanc, Laurel A. Shaw, Donna Culbert, Maureen Schaedler, and Zach Drzal, stand behind an information table in the Municipal Center packed with resources and literature to help residents avoid tick bites and the diseases the tiny insects carry. The table also has literature about the BLAST initiative that the district has been promoting for over a decade. —Bee Photo, Voket
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