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Outdoors - Take precautions against Lyme disease

May 11, 2008|By Bill Anderson

Now that the weather is starting to become nice, a lot of people are spending time outdoors enjoying activities such as hiking, biking and fishing. If you spend much time in the field, you have a very good chance of coming in contact with ticks - both wood ticks and deer ticks. This raises concerns about Lyme disease, which is very common in this area and is showing up in people and pets.

Each spring, I receive a ton of press releases warning about the potential of Lyme disease. As most people now know, Lyme disease is carried by deer ticks. One of the biggest problems with treating the disease is that symptoms seem to vary a great deal from person to person.

Lyme symptoms are often described as flu-like, but they can also cause pain in various joints and, according to the Center for Disease Control, Lyme also can affect the heart and/or the central nervous system.

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Most of the literature points out that Lyme is usually easily treated once identified. Fortunately, doctors now know that Lyme is fairly common locally and are better prepared to order blood tests to confirm if Lyme is the problem. Advanced stages of the disease are usually treated with intravenous drugs, which may include medicines that reduce swelling in joints.

Probably the best approach for dealing with Lyme disease is to try to avoid contact with the ticks that carry it, but that is not an option for those who enjoy the outdoors. If you need to be in the field, the recommendation is to wear long clothing, tuck pants legs into boots and wear long-sleeve shirts. Most people won't do that when it's hot and humid outside, but that's the recommendation.

The CDC and other organizations also recommend the use of insect repellents. According to the CDC, the risk of tick attachment can be reduced by using insect repellents containing DEET to clothes and exposed skin.

Lyme is very common in dogs in this region, and there is a Lyme vaccine for dogs. Our vets recommend it. I know of three cases where field trail labs were confirmed positive for Lyme in the past year. Deer and deer ticks are everywhere now, so the safest bet is to get the vaccine - even for some house dogs.

No one is recommending that you eliminate outdoors activities in fear of Lyme, but it is something to be aware of. A few basic safety precautions certainly make sense. Don't forget your dogs. It seems like we are hearing more and more about pets getting Lyme disease, so you should consult with your vet on the best approach for your situation.

For more information on Lyme disease, go to the American Lyme Disease Foundation Web site at www.lyme.org.




Bill Anderson writes a weekly outdoors column for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached by e-mail at bandersn@mindspring.com.

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