WHY THIS IS A MUST-READ
Find out how to protect yourself from tick borne diseases.
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REGION - With advent of spring and more people spending time outdoors, comes a reminder about tick borne diseases. Lyme disease is just one of them. Pike County Tick Borne Diseases Task Force stresses the importance of prevention, of taking this seriously, and to not be afraid of going outdoors, as long as precaution is taken.

[Note: Wayne County Pennsylvania also has a task force warning the public about tick borne diseases.]

Mikki Weiss, who chairs the Task Force in Pike County, member Marty Theys who like Mikki has battled tick diseases, and Dr. Robert Olar, micro-biologist and a Task Force member, brought the reminder before the Pike County commissioners recently.

The commissioners responded with a resolution proclaiming May 2017 as Tick Borne Diseases Awareness Action Month.

The Task Force was created by the Pike County commissioners on May 20, 2015.
As Pike County commissioners’ resolution notes, the frequency of diagnosed and reported tick related diseases have risen greatly over recent years. In 2013, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) released a report stating that preliminary estimates show that around 300,000 Americans are diagnosed with Lyme disease annually. This was approximately 10 times higher than the number of cases previously reported to the CDC every year.

In the last five years, Pennsylvania ranked highest in the country in the number of confirmed cases of tick borne diseases. Cases are easily misdiagnosed.

By their resolution, the commissioners urge every citizen to make it a habit to check for ticks after spending time outdoors. Early spring through late fall, as well as during a warmer winter season, increases the risk of ticks.

Early clinical diagnosis and appropriate treatment of tick-borne disorders and diseases can greatly reduce the chances of continued, diverse and chronic symptoms. These can affect every system and organ in the human body and often every aspect of a person’s life, the resolution states.

Weiss stated that since the county formalized their groups as an official task force, they have assembled a comprehensive program.

She stressed that the word needs to be spread about the reality and dangers of tick diseases and how they can be prevented.

A policy is starting in Delaware Valley School District, she said, to remove ticks found on children and for parents to be notified.

The Task Force has been featured on a 30-second commercial for Blue Ridge Cable TV, to inform the public.

Weiss stated that it is the white footed mouse which bears the responsibility of harboring the pathogens that will eventually reach humans, through tick bites.

She expressed concern that we may be facing “the worst year ever.” The pathogens, she noted, have a lot to do with acorns, which are eaten by mice and deer. This year there is a proliferation of acorns.

Size of a poppyseed

“It is the size of a poppyseed, only a little bit bigger than the period at the end of a sentence,” Weiss cautioned. “You don’t know you’re bitten. Unless you check yourself and check the people you love around you, you are never going to know you have been bitten.”

She said, “By the time a tick bits us, it has acquired a cast of characters (pathogens), not only Lyme disease. Lyme disease is only one of the insidious ailments we can get.”

Weiss said that doctors must be educated. We must be able to know how to make the proper diagnosis. Prevention, she added, is what is needed.

Marty Theys, who started the task force with Weiss, has been suffering with tick borne disease for 20 years. Pike County Tick Borne Diseases Task Force maintains a hotline for people to call with questions and concerns (570-503-6334).

Theys has been answering the hotline for a couple years. He said some of the calls can be heart breaking. “Some of these people are so desperate and feel they are not getting help,” he said.
Four to five calls a week come in on the hotline, he said; in the summer he may get as many as 10.

“We really have to bring awareness; it is really something the doctors have to step forward and do something about.”

Up to each of us

“It’s up to each individual person; you’ve got to prevent getting bitten,” Weiss said with urgency. “Every resident, including the kids, everybody, has got an investment. You’re not going to be able to enjoy the trails, enjoy getting out in your backyard, going to your car without being bitten by a tick. Folks, this is how bad it is: It is not IF you are going to be bitten, it is when… and the only, only way is to prevent it.”

Pike County Tick Borne Diseases Task Force plans to work with municipalities, pest control people and community associations, she stated. She said they will ask the associations to penalize residents if they feed deer.

Dr. Olar reported that they have started educating local doctors. The Task Force set up an electronic journal club which is updated with new information on the variety of pathogens, diseases, symptoms and what can be done.

He warned of the extra dangers of the Powassan virus, which has a very high mortality rate. He declared what must be done is to develop a vaccine with the same urgency that created the Small Pox vaccine.

Lyme disease, he said, develops neurological symptoms in 40% of the cases. Sadly, he said, this disease is called the “Great Imitator” in that it can be misdiagnosed as a host of other maladies such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Weiss also recommended sending a tick found on one’s person, to the East Stroudsburg University Wildlife DNA Laboratory for testing. Call the lab at 570-422-7892 for information.
Pike County Tick Borne Diseases Task Force Support Group meets on the second Saturday of each month from 10:30 a.m. to noon, at the Pike County Public Library, 119 Harford St., Milford.

For more information:
Pike County Tick Borne Diseases Task Force, phone 570-296-3569; web site: www.pikepa.org/tick.html.
Their “hot line” number is 570-503-6334.
Wayne County Lyme Disease Task Force, https://nolyme.com

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[The following information was provided by the Pike County Tick Borne Diseases Task Force.]

PREVENTION IS KEY

Walk in the center of trails and avoid touching wild animals Wear light colored clothing, pants and a long-sleeve shirt. Wear suitable footwear. Tuck your pants in your socks. Apply DEET on skin to repel ticks. Products containing Permethrin can be used on clothes and gear. Check pets for ticks before they enter the home. Check yourself for ticks and shower immediately after coming in from the outdoors. When home, tumble clothes in the dryer for 30 minutes to kill ticks. At home, keep your lawn cut short and keep leaves away from your house.

TICK REMOVAL

If a tick is found on you, use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Avoid twisting or jerking. Clean the bite area.

SYMPTOMS

Knowing you have had a tick on you, be alert for symptoms. Unfortunately, many times a tick will bite, feed, and let go before you ever notice it. Below are some common symptoms of a tick infection:

Fatigue Chills Bull’s Eye Rash (nut not in every case) Fever Headache Muscle and joint pain Rash Joint swelling.

Consult your doctor if you are experiencing any of these symptoms. A blood test can be done to determine if you gave a tick borne disease.

HOTLINE
Pike County Tick Borne Diseases Task Force:
570-503-6334