Contracting Tick-Borne Disease
The risk of contracting tick-borne disease from deer tick nymphs and adults varies by season.
- April–May. Ticks that failed to find a deer the previous fall, seek a host throughout the spring.
- June–July. This is high season for infected nymphs, and the peak time of the year for you to contract Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. By far, most human cases of tick-borne disease come from the bite of nymphs in early summer.
- August–early September. As nymphs are in the process of molting into adults, this is a moderate risk time.
- Late September–October—The major peak season for adult ticks and another high risk time for you.
- Cold months. Deer ticks are inactive below 35 degrees, but may seek a host in spots where the sun has melted the snow and warmed the leaf litter.
What To Do About Tick Bites
When you find a tick....
- Use sticky duct tape to remove crawling ticks from skin and clothing.
- If a tick has become imbedded in your skin, don't panic! Few people are infected before a tick has been attached for less than 24 hours.
- Remove the tick with a tick spoon (available free at the IHC or Town Office); you may also use pointy tweezers. Grasp tick as close to the skin as possible and pull straight up. Don't twist or jerk the tick, which can cause mouth parts to separate and remain in the skin.
- Bring tick to the Health Center. Staff will look at it under a microscope to verify that all of it has been removed.
Call the Health Center (734-2213) if...
- You’re unable to remove a tick.
- When a tick has been embedded more than 24 hours.
- If you discover a rash or have flu-like symptoms—fatigue, aches, joint pain.
About Tick-Borne Diseases
Of the 15 species of tick that have been identified in Maine, only the deer tick, Ixodes scapularis, is responsible for the five tick-borne illnesses affecting humans or domestic animals. These diseases, in order of frequency, are:
- Lyme disease. The most common of the tick-borne diseases, Lyme can affect virtually any system in the body, producing a range of symptoms including fever, headache, a rash (more than 3 inches wide), sore swollen joints, stiff neck, and facial paralysis (Bell's palsy). About 80 percent of people develop a rash around the bite. Usually circular, it can also take a different shape. Antibiotic treatment is usually successful when given early. In some cases, Lyme disease can have long-term effects, such as arthritis, fatigue, muscle pain, and neurological symptoms. Dogs and horses can contract Lyme disease.
- Anaplasmosis. Anaplasmosis is increasing in Maine for both people and domestic animals. The most common symptoms include fever, chills, headache, loss of appetite, nausea, fatigue, and muscle pain. As with Lyme, antibiotic treatment is usually successful. Rarely (1–2%) serious complications lead to a fatal outcome. Dogs and horses can contract anaplasmosis.
- Babesiosis. Common along the southern New England coast for a while, it is now appearing in Maine. Symptoms include fever, chills, muscle or joint pain, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue. Antibiotics usually cure it.
- Powassan Encephalitis. Usually a serious viral infection of the brain and the tissues surrounding it, Powassan leaves half its victims with permanent neurological damage; it is fatal to 10%–15%. The chances of contracting this disease are very low. So far, Maine has recorded five cases, including the first death in 2014.
- Borrelia myamotoi. This is a newly-recognized bacteria transmitted by deer ticks which causes a relapsing fever-type illness. While it has been found in Maine deer ticks, few cases in humans have been recognized.